BBC slammed over Northern Ireland flag errorThe broadcaster hired a ‘corporate identity consultant’ to help it rebrand its entire portfolio includi
BBC slammed over Northern Ireland flag error
The broadcaster hired a ‘corporate identity consultant’ to help it rebrand its entire portfolio including new logos for its flagship TV channels and the iPlayer and BBC Sounds streaming services. BBC News, sport and weather were also updated in the revamp in October last year after market research revealed some audiences thought the BBC’s branding was looking ‘old fashioned’. The changes were announced by Kerris Bright, chief customer officer, but the BBC refused at the time to say how much the project, overseen by consultants at top advertising agency Wolff Olins, had cost taxpayers.
To ensure viewers were getting value for money, the Daily Express asked the BBC to reveal the cost in a Freedom of Information request submitted in April.
The BBC said that although it had the information, it was exempt from releasing it because doing so might hamper future negotiations with contractors for services it needed.
We appealed the decision and after an internal review the BBC agreed it was not sufficient reason to withhold the information.
However, they exempted themselves a second time on the grounds they did not have a centrally held record of the full cost.
They added that it would now take ‘weeks’ to find out as they would have to ask every single team involved in the project how much work they had done and what they had spent.
The Daily Express immediately launched an appeal to the Information Commissioner demanding the BBC stop making excuses and reveal the cost of the project to us.
Their refusal sparked anger among campaigners already incensed at the BBC’s decision to charge over-75s for the licence fee as the cost of living crisis worsens.
Over-75s were charged the licence fee
Dennis Reed, who runs the Silver Voices campaign group representing senior citizens in the UK, described the BBC’s response as ‘baloney’.
He said “This is the sort of baloney that we expect from BBC executives. Any large corporation on a project like this would have the overall cost of the project available as part of their budgeting process.
“It’s impossible to suggest that they would have to go to every single team that’s involved in that project. They will have an overall cost of that project within their budget.
“It’s important to contrast what they’re spending on things like branding compared to what they say they’ve saved by not giving over-75s their free licences, and so they’re just finding ways to avoid providing that information to the public.
“And the fact that they’re given two different reasons, one being commercial interest, and now saying it’ll take too long, they’re just trying to avoid providing the information.”
Rebecca Ryan, Campaign Director of Defund the BBC, responded by accusing the corporation of “moving the goalposts to cover its own back”, while former Brexit Party MEP Rupert Lowe branded it “arrogant and lazy”.
Dennis Reed described the BBC’s response as ‘baloney’
Ms Ryan said: “The BBC is expert in moving the goalposts to cover its own back. Its lack of transparency here speaks volumes and the corporation’s bosses clearly don’t want the true cost to be known by the public.
“This is an organisation that wastes millions, year in, year out – from £200-per-day taxi rides for Dan Walker, to £87million on a new set for Eastenders – but refuses to answer to those who fund it.
“The British people are facing extreme hardship thanks to the cost-of-living crisis and yet they are still being bullied on their doorsteps by this unaccountable corporation. It’s time for the BBC to become answerable to those who still choose to pay for it.
Rupert Lowe: “The BBC has clearly treated this perfectly reasonable FOI request with contempt.
“Their justification on cost grounds is farcical when they pay people like Gary Lineker such huge salaries. Monopolies always become arrogant and lazy and the BBC has reached this point.
“They need to be made to stand on their own two feet, funded by those who are prepared to pay for their content via a voluntary subscription.”
Joe Ventre, digital campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Taxpayers are fed up with the Beeb’s spending secrecy.
“Every year hard-working households are forced to cough up for the outdated licence fee, yet BBC bosses use absurd excuses to withhold information about how their money is spent. The BBC should be as transparent as possible.”
In the FOI response, dated May 10, the BBC said: “We can confirm we hold information relevant to your request.
“However, we consider this information to be exempt from disclosure (as it) would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of both the BBC and a third party.”
However, a Freedom of Information Internal Review Decision dated June 1 sent by a member of the BBC’s legal team said: “I have reviewed the request and I do not uphold the BBC’s original response.”
But the respondent added: “The BBC’s rebranding process is a complex project and involves many multiple inter-disciplinary teams and an external supplier. It would require identifying all the relevant BBC teams who are involved in the project, retrieving and extracting costs in respect to their contributions.
“On liaising with senior colleagues in the BBC’s Brand division who have expert knowledge of the way such information is held by the BBC, to answer your request would take in excess of 18 hours to identify and extract the Requested Information. As an estimate, it is likely to take at a minimum, several weeks to retrieve this information.”
The BBC has kept the cost of its rebrand secret
The response comes at a time when the BBC finds itself under increasing pressure, not least over the much-criticised decision to scrap free television licences for people over the age of 75.
In January, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries froze the BBC’s annual licence fee at its current £159 level for two years, and has vowed to scrap it completely by 2027.
Last month she told Parliament’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee she hoped to launch an extensive review of the BBC’s funding model “considerably before the summer recess”.
A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC is a global organisation and we can’t compete against other global operators without first class design and navigation. As our FOI review explains a number of our in-house teams are delivering this work, with some external support.
“We spend 95 per cent of our budget on programmes and services that audiences love, and our annual report sets out how the Licence Fee is spent in detail.”
Wolff Olins referred all requests for information to the BBC’s press office.