Bunce for the Beeb

“The BBC wants to increase the licence fee by 2.3% above inflation to boost its programmes and digital services” – says, not unsurprisingly, BBC Online before swimming headlong into the waters of disingenuity by adding:

“If the government accepts the BBC’s proposal, the fee would rise by £3.14 per year until 2013, not including inflation. The current fee is £126.50.”

Note the interesting spin in both statements; the licence will increase by a stated figure [2.3% which equals, supposedly, a mere £3.14 a year]… errrmmm, plus inflation, not that we want to make too much of that last bit.

Look more closely, however, and you find that the figure of £3.14 being quoted is actually an average increase over and above inflation and that, as is the case in compound interest calculations, the actual yearly increase will go up year on year as the principle figure to which the 2.3% rise is applied – the actual cost of the licence fee itself, increases each year…

And then there’s the list matter of this 2.3% increase being applied on top of inflation – what’s called in the trade a ‘Retail Price Index’ underpin the figure for which is, by tradition, taken from the November RPI figure that is also used by government for its calculations for annual increases in welfare benefits rate and state pensions, amongst other things.

All of which, as the Media Guardian demonstrates, means that any figures quoted for the actual rises the public will face can, at this stage, only be guesswork.

Interestingly both the BBC’s quoted figures [a rise to £150.50 by 2013] and the Guardian’s [up to £176.46 by 2013) are incorrect. For some reason the BBC seem to think that inflation, as measured by the RPI, will be running at a mere 0.5% between 2007 and 2013, a figure which would, no doubt, delight the Chancellor (whoever it is by then) and the Bank of England but which I’m sure anyone would concede is unrealistic to say the least. Meanwhile the dear old Graun has just its numbers entirely wrong and applied an inflation rate of 3.1% per annum while citing the Bank of England’s 2.5% target.

[Calculated correctly using the Bank of England target rate, the actual licence fee by 2013 works out to be 170.24, and average annual increase of just short of £7 per year – £6.96 for precision freaks and economists give or take any rounding errors along the way]

I think the obvious conclusion to begin with here is that, when it comes to upping the licence fee, the BBC speaks ‘with forked tongue’ and fingers firmly crossed behind their backs – let’s just hope that someone on the Commons select committee is rather better at maths than they are.

In fact, lets do a little more than hope as a quick scan of the Parliament website reveals that the members of the Culture, Media & Sport select committee are:

Labour: Janet Anderson, Paul Farrelly, Mike Hall, Alan Keen, Rosemary McKenna, Helen Southworth

Tory: John Whittingdale (Chair), Nigel Evans, Tim Yeo

Lib Dem: Adrian Sanders

Plaid Cymru: Adam Price

The other interesting point about the Beeb’s own coverage of its request for more money is that when it says, in a report filed at 10:19am today, that “The corporation is to present its bid for the next licence fee settlement to a House of Commons select committee”, what it neglects to mention is this:

“The Culture, Media and Sport Committee are considering the following inquiries:

– BBC Report and Accounts 2004-05
– Analogue Switch-Off
– London Olympics 2012

The Committee will be taking oral evidence from the BBC on Tuesday 11 October at 11.00am in the Grimond Room, Portcullis House on the BBC Report and Accounts for 2004-05.”

Might be worth a look at the Parliament channel to see if this select committee has been covered, otherwise the minutes of the session should appear here at some point – not sure if turnaround is as quick as Hansard.

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