5 facts about where BBC spending goes

We went through the media organisation's annual report

30th January 2020

The BBC is a key part of British culture, and one that has been under a lot of scrutiny since the election. As what many people consider the country’s only neutral news source, we put a lot of trust in it – and for £154.50 per year, you’d hope it could be trusted.

But its own figures show it’s increasingly struggling to connect with younger people and those from poorer backgrounds, and four years ago the Beeb announced it would need to cut £800m by 2022.

The nationwide TV licensing fee funds our BBC but many of us pay it mindlessly. Ever wondered about the money and where it goes? We looked through its annual report.

The number of citizens paying a TV licence dropped in 2019

In 2017/2018, 25.84 million people held a TV licence, while last year the number was 25.75 million, equating to an estimated loss of £200m. This drop was the first in a decade and can possibly be due to the rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. 

Antiques Roadshow
The BBC has been criticised for appealing more to older, richer viewers than younger and poorer ones

The BBC is spending more on online content 

Again, probably down to trying to keep pace with mammoths Netflix and Amazon, BBC TV saw a drop in audience in last year. Some 2% fewer households tuned in for BBC One this year, while BBC Two saw a drop of 3%. The drop was most significant in the age range 16–34. But while TV ratings dropped, the BBC’s online presence saw a growth of 2%, perhaps due to an extra £8m spent on online and red button content this year. 

While funding dropped, spending rose

This year, the BBC spent a grand total of £2.66bn. That’s £171m more than 2018/2019. Here’s the country-by-country breakdown:


2018/2019 2019/2020
England £2,136,000,000 £1,979,000,000
Wales £179,000,000 £183,000,000
Scotland £249,000,000 £232,000,000
Northern Ireland £94,000,000 £93,000,000

Of this spending, you’ll be happy to know, the majority is spent on our entertainment, education and enjoyment. This year, 95% of the BBC’s controllable spend this year was focused on content and delivery where just 5% was spent on running the organisation.

The BBC spends most on BBC One while BBC Parliament gets the least

Based on 2017/2018 numbers, the majority of the BBC’s funding goes on BBC One. A grand total of £1.05bn was spent on BBC One in the whole of the UK last year – which isn’t surprising considering this channel has the most reach (66% in England). The channel with the least funding is BBC Parliament which accounts for £2m of the BBC’s spending. 

BBC regions
Many people rely on the BBC for news and conversation in their local area

BBC is losing the funding that pays for the over 75 free licence 

The originally government-funded scheme that gave over 75s access to free TV licences is coming to an end. In 2015, the Conservatives announced that the BBC would be taking over the cost of free licences by June 2020. Unfortunately, this would cost the BBC around £745m – more than a fifth of its budget – by 2020/21.

This would mean even more cuts for the BBC and thus, the Labour-implemented scheme will come to an end after 20 years. As of June 2020, only low-income households with one recipient of the pension credit benefit will be eligible. 

30th January 2020