The BBC licence fee and how we might improve the “procurement of talent”

Recently, the BBC announced it was looking again at the amount it spends engaging ‘talent’ – the people who are paid to appear on our TV screens (and on our radios), whether presenters, news readers, football pundits or other experts.

This has been a sore point for years, as news of apparently large sums paid to the stars did not go down well with the public who pay their compulsory TV licence fee every year, which supports the BBC.  There is also fake outrage from the BBC’s competitors, who both object to the taxation-based funding mechanism, and might consider that the BBC is driving up the price of talent, meaning they have to pay more for their performers too.

I’ve personally know the last four BBC Procurement Directors reasonably well. The first of those invited me to speak at a BBC conference more than ten years ago, at which procurement staff and their key business stakeholders attended. I remember suggesting that the BBC should apply procurement principles to the acquisition of talent, and to the acquisition of rights to sporting events, as well as to IT, facilities, professional services and all the conventional categories.

My suggestion was not met with a great outpouring of enthusiasm, it is fair to say, from the stakeholder community at least. And over the intervening years, the BBC’s procurement function has been innovative and largely successful in getting involved in a wide range of commercial activities, some going well beyond ‘conventional’ procurement. But as far as I know, they still haven’t got involved in the ‘talent’ side of things.

Given this latest discussion, and the pressure for the BBC to manage its finances more carefully with the future of the licence fee to be re-negotiated next year, is this a good time for procurement to make another pitch to get involved in these wider areas? We think so. Because, when you think about it, the core principles that we use in most of the conventional purchasing categories could actually apply successfully to the world of talent.

So look out for our next installments, when we’re going to feature ten ways in which those procurement principles could be applied to the acquisition of presenters and the like. Some are highly practical and are undoubtedly workable (such as the core principle which states the importance of competition) whilst others are a little more left field (a reverse auction to choose the next host of Strictly Come Dancing anyone)?

And have a think about it yourself - how would you reduce Alan Hansen or Graham Norton's fees?


Share on Procurious

Voices (2)

  1. dan2:

    I’ve been told that the licence is needed for any live broadcast, of any channel (see here:

    So if you watch just Sky – still need a licence.

    If you watch only catch-up i.e. Iplayer (BBC), or Sky On Demand – then no licence required.

    Not that I intend testing this personally…

  2. David Simpson:

    So if you have a TV in your residential house you have to have a BBC licence – what about if if don’t have a licence then you cannot watch BBC TV on your TV .. I guess the majority of the UK will decide then if the programmes on BBC are worth paying for a licence which in my case would be not to watch people like Alan Hansen on Match of the Day. Pay per view is needed

Discuss this:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.