Lean times makes BBC tighten belt

Broadcaster slashes hospitality budget

LONDON — The BBC’s corporate hospitality bill, which pays for opinion formers to be wined and dined at big U.K. sports events like the Wimbledon tennis tournament, is the latest victim of the economic downturn.

BBC director general Mark Thompson told staff Thursday that his external entertainment budget is being cut as the org faces a £140 million ($205.8 million) shortfall over the next five years because it has postponed the sale of prime real estate due to plunging property values.

On Oct. 23, Variety reported that the pubcaster was reviewing plans to sell Television Center and other property assets.

Now in an internal email to staff, Thompson said that the sale of BBC premises, due originally to have been completed by 2013, has been put on ice.

“You only need to look at the empty offices across the U.K. to see that we’ll need to review this timetable,” he wrote.

“Delay will have a knock-on effect on our spending plans, a point made starkly by Chris Kane, the BBC’s head of corporate real estate, who reported that we face as much as a £140 million shortfall over the next five years if we are unable to dispose of these assets.”

He added: “We have already undertaken some day-to-day housekeeping, including new policies on the use of taxis, limits on entertaining, attendance at award ceremonies and conferences.

“For all large organizations, corporate hospitality is an important part of doing business.

“However, this year we will significantly reduce our spend in this area and we will have targets to achieve further reductions over the course of the current license fee period.”

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