BBC spends £4m on freelance design

BBC bosses have splashed out over £4million on freelance designers for them to colourfully revamp its headquarters, Broadcasting House and White City in London.

More than 40 pieces of modern artwork including inspirational lighting, sculptures and murals have been commissioned using licence fee payers’ cash.

The million-pound revelation is thought to be the first time the BBC has admitted exactly how much it pays for the time of well-known freelance professionals, including the artist Tracy Emin.

Obtained by The Observer under the Freedom of Information Act, the disclosures show that the Canadian artist Mark Pimlott won the most lucrative design project, costing licence payers’ over £1.6m.

Viewers however are unlikely to see his design, described as curving paved floor emblazoned with destinations across the globe, as it bridges the old and new wings of Broadcasting House.

The brilliant white of Rachel Whiteread’s cast of Room 101, the famous room that inspired George Orwell’s novel 1984, is even less visible to the public, as it sits inside broadcasting HQ.

With a price tag of £54,000, the cast seems a bargain compared to the lighting system designed for the corporation by Jaume Plensa, which earned the Spanish artist £897,000.

The artists Martin Richman and Tony Cooper have also been commissioned to design a lighting scheme to illuminate the outside of Broadcasting House, costing a further £100,000.

The Poet Laureate , Andrew Motion, has joined the medley of projects, alongside graphic designer, John Morgan.

Both were commissioned to inlay a poem into the pavement, for a fee of £11,000.

Meanwhile, Turner Prize Winner Tracy Emin designed a small ‘Liver’ bird, costing licence payers’ £59,000, while the Japanese artist Yuko Shiraishi earned £65,000 for a multi-coloured mural in the BBC reception.

The financial exposé is a blow to the BBC, whose governors will today embark on a meet and greet with licence payers over how the public’s annual funds can be better spent.

Meeting TV viewers in Belfast, the broadcaster will be told the types of programmes and services licence payers want to see on the BBC, amid calls from Mark Thompson, director-general, that the licence fee should be raised to £180 a year.

The BBC press office shows today’s meeting does not explicitly state spending on ‘non-programming activities’ is on the agenda, but concedes the road-show has hosted debate on how to get “value for money from the licence fee.”

Unions and critics have claimed the BBC is wasting public funds on elaborate designs at a time when it is implementing budgetary costs across the corporation, resulting in 3,000 job losses of journalists, editorial staff and new media workers.


29th March 2006

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