BBC writes off £100m at online GCSE revision service
Sunday 28 February 2010
BBC chiefs effectively wrote off nearly £100m of licence-payers' money spent on an online education service after it was axed, and officials decided efforts to recoup the cash by selling off the material "wasn't worth the candle".
Confidential documents reveal how, after it was forced to ditch the BBC Jam project – which provided free revision help with GCSEs and A-levels and had 170,000 users – the BBC tried to get back some of the outlay by selling the material commercially. The plan was abandoned when BBC board members decided the "recycling" project would cost more than it would recoup.
Details of the write-off come shortly after the BBC was condemned for wasting £100m by overspending on refurbishments at Broadcasting House. The National Audit Office said the refurbishment, plus the building of two BBC facilities in Salford and Glasgow, will now cost £2bn.
The Jam project was suspended in January 2007 following complaints from the British Educational Suppliers' Association that it conflicted with its own paid-for services. The BBC Trust, the corporation's governing body, axed it two months later.
It has also emerged that leaked proposals by Mark Thompson to axe the digital radio station 6Music have set the BBC's director-general on a collision course with the BBC Trust. Two weeks ago, the trust published a report into 6Music which concluded the music station was "well liked by its listeners" and its audience had "grown faster than any other BBC digital radio-only service".
It emerged last week that Mr Thompson's proposals, to be published next month, recommend closing the station down. Other proposals include shutting the Asian Network, slashing the website's staff by 25 per cent, selling off magazines such as Radio Times and Top Gear and capping sports rights at 8 per cent of budget, or £300m.
The news that 6Music is in danger has met with vocal opposition, despite an audience of fewer than 700,000, according to the latest Rajar figures.
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