The “cash-strapped” BBC has been enjoying a spending spree on Apple products over the last few years, dropping £2.5 million on more than 4,000 iPhones, 400 iPads and 800 MacBooks for staff in just eighteen months. New figures reveal that it has also blown a whopping £220,000 on teaching staff how to use them.
Over the last three years, 783 BBC employees have attended courses on how to use their new iPhones at a total cost of £220,000, or nearly £300 per person. In 2013 alone the figure was £42,000 – the lowest figure to date, the Daily Mail has reported.
“It’s absolutely incredible that the BBC has run up a bill of this size teaching staff to use mainstream technology,” said Andy Silvester, campaign manager for the TaxPayers’ Alliance. “School teachers across the country know full well that teenagers can master an iPhone, so professionals should be able to.
“The BBC must cut out this kind of wasteful spending, or sympathy for the £145-a-year TV tax will continue to wane,” he added.
The BBC is unapologetic. A spokesman for the corporation said that new phones were only given to staff who needed them for work: “We are harnessing new technologies to train our journalists to use their phones to film, edit and transmit news stories on mobile phones. This not only keeps costs down for the licence fee payer but also increases our ability to work in remote places where there are no other means of broadcasting,” they said.
It appears not to have occurred to the BBC that cheaper models are on the market.
According to figures released in a Freedom of Information request filed by MailOnline, between January 2012 and October 2013 the BBC purchased 4,266 iPhones, 427 iPads and 815 Macbooks. The figures for iPads were only that low because they didn’t start purchasing them until December 2012, meaning that they bought more than 40 per month in the period covered.
The estimated the cost of the hardware was £2.5million based on standard retail prices. Although the BBC receives a discount for bulk-buying, it is not known by how much the products are discounted. However, also not included in that cost calculation is the price of the contracts with mobile phone operator O2, which is likely to be substantial.
This is not the first time the BBC has come under fire for wasteful spending. In April it was roundly criticised for sending 272 staff to Brazil to cover the football World Cup at an estimated cost of £12million, including £10,000 on a mini studio just to film background shots of Rio de Janeiro.
Private sector competitors ITV broadcast the same number of games from the tournament with 120 staff, less than half the BBC compliment.
And last year the BBC was forced to write off £100million on failed IT project ‘The Digital Media Initiative (DMI)’ which aimed to create a production system linked to the Corporation’s archive. The BBC’s Director-General Tony Hall said: “DMI has wasted a huge amount of licence feepayers’ money and I saw no reason to allow that to continue. I have serious concerns about how we managed this project and the review that has been set up is designed to find out what went wrong and what lessons can be learned.”
Jon Linwood, the BBC’s chief technology officer who was on a salary of £287,000 a year and chaired the DMI’s steering committee, was suspended on full pay during the investigation. He was subsequently let go without a pay-off. In January of this year he issued legal proceedings against the corporation as a result, won the case and was awarded an undisclosed sum in compensation.