BBC staff in the dark over £19 light bulbs

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The Kafkaesque bureaucracy of the BBC, known for producing glossy leaflets on how to boil a kettle or use a revolving door, has reached new levels over the illuminating issue of light-bulb prices.

Two members of staff have written to the corporation's in-house magazine, Ariel, to complain after being told that their departments would be charged to replace faulty bulbs at a rate of £19 a bulb.

One worker who had been sitting in the gloom at BBC Television Centre in west London received a response to his request for two new bulbs after a week, having made six telephone calls and sent two e-mails. Sean Moxhay, who works in the BBC's specialist factual department, was then told that the missing bulbs would take five weeks to arrive.

A private contractor, Land Securities Trillium, has recently been brought in to oversee the management of the corporation's buildings in a joint venture with the BBC.

Mr Moxhay said: "It comes to something when it is easier to go to shop yourself than to utilise the 'new and improved' internal facilities."

A second worker, Gail Cregan, a finance assistant for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Singers, requested a new bulb for her desk lamp. She was quoted in Ariel as saying: "You may think it was a simple request. I was told, 'You do realise that you now have to pay for them'. I said, 'OK, how much?' Now wait for it ... £19. If this is what they are charging for a simple item, what on earth does everything else cost?"

A decade ago, the former director general John Birt attempted to cut exorbitant costs by introducing an internal market to the corporation.

A spokesman for the corporation said that an operator on the Land Securities Trillium's hotline for reporting faults had made a mistake. He said: "There is in fact no charge for replacing bulbs in normal hours. It was a mistake. The whole point of our agreement with Land Securities Trillium is to save millions to be spent instead on making programmes."