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British public backs BBC over decision to let go of The Great British Bake Off

Exclusive: Poll shows 58 per cent of British public think the corporation was right to refuse to pay £25 million a year to keep Bake Off

Adam Lusher
Saturday 24 September 2016 21:22 BST
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The BBC refused to pay £25 million for Bake Off and only Paul Hollywood is moving to Channel 4
The BBC refused to pay £25 million for Bake Off and only Paul Hollywood is moving to Channel 4

The BBC was right to refuse to pay more than £25 million a year to keep The Great British Bake Off, a survey of the British public has found.

An exclusive poll conducted for The Independent found 58 per cent of Britons thought the corporation was right to refuse to increase its offer for the show, which ended up going to Channel 4.

In negotiations with Love Productions, the makers of Bake Off, the BBC did offer to pay £15 million a year, a “huge” sum by its standards and twice what it had given under the existing contract with the production company.

But Love Productions took the show to Channel 4, which is thought to have agreed to pay a total of about £75 million in three annual £25 million instalments.

When news of the loss emerged, questions were asked about it in the House of Commons. But the ComRes poll of 2,050 Britons shows the majority of people thought the BBC got it right.

While 58 per cent – comfortably more than half – agreed with the BBC’s refusal to pay more, only 23 per cent, fewer than one in four, thought the corporation should have dug deeper into its pockets.

In a possible indication that some in Britain are still not obsessed by Bake Off, 19 per cent, nearly one in five of those polled, were ‘don’t knows’.

Responses may have been influenced by polling having been conducted after presenters Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc announced they were “not going with the dough” to Channel 4, and by the second and final day of the poll being Thursday, when Mary Berry said she too was staying with the BBC.

Paul Hollywood did say on Thursday that he was going to Channel 4, but the loss of three out of four of the show’s presenters has led to suggestions the channel has just forked out £25 million a year for “a big tent.”

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Some have speculated that without the bulk of Bake Off’s ‘talent’, Channel 4’s acquisition could prove to be one of TV’s worst deals – although, given that Bake Off has been known to attract up to 15 million viewers for key episodes this is by no means certain.

Some industry insiders have suggested that even with half the viewers who watched Bake Off on the BBC, Channel 4 might consider its acquisition a success, especially as the programme might be able to generate as much as £2.4 million in advertising revenue per show.

A BBC source told The Independent: “The BBC takes absolutely no pleasure in having lost one of its best and most loved shows, but it does seem the British public have understood what happened and why.

“We did make an extraordinarily competitive offer to keep the show, but our resources are not limitless. The British public clearly endorse what we did.

“And they will undoubtedly form an opinion on what Channel 4 do and how they remake the programme.”

The source added, pointedly: “Of course we are delighted that the majority of the stars of the show have stayed with us and will be cooking up some treats for the future.”

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