MPs have claimed EastEnders is being “outperformed by its soap rivals”.
The BBC have come under fire for plans to spend £87 million – £27 million more than the initial budget – on a set rebuild for their flagship soap.
While the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) admits it is “important” that the E20 project is completed to help improve the show, a new government report published today (20.03.19) claims the revamp has been “managed badly”.
The PAC said: “Despite considering it crucial to the future success of EastEnders, the BBC has managed its E20 project badly.
“EastEnders is a flagship programme for the BBC but is being outperformed by its soap rivals, such as Coronation Street, and its overall audience has reduced as fewer people watch traditional linear TV.
“Therefore, it is important for EastEnders that the BBC completes E20 so that the programme is best placed to not only succeed but to also secure its long-term future.
“However, since we last heard about a 26-month delay to the project in 2016, it has gone off-track again.
“The project is now set to cost £87 million – £27 million more than initially budgeted – and complete in May 2023, nearly five years later than originally planned in 2013.”
While the PAC admitted the E20 costs had increased partly due to inflation in the construction industry, they also claimed the BBC approached the project with “apparent complacency”.
PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “The BBC made fundamental mistakes in planning and delivering E20, at significant extra cost to licence fee payers.
“The apparent complacency with which the BBC approached the project is entirely at odds with EastEnders’ strategic importance to the Corporation.
“It was a serious error at the outset not to consider exactly what skills would be needed to see E20 through. The resulting shortfall in key expertise set the tone for much of what followed.
“The revised completion date for E20 is still more than four years away and, as work continues, the BBC must demonstrate it now has a firm grip on the project’s costs and progress.”
In December, the National Audit Office (NAO) claimed in a report, ‘E20: renewing the EastEnders set’, that the project will not deliver “value for money”.
A section of the report stated: “The BBC built the external filming set for EastEnders (including ‘Albert Square’) in 1984, and originally planned to use it for two years.
“It has lasted for 34 years but is no longer fit for purpose.
“There are, for example, filming delays and maintenance costs as a result of stoppages in production due to health and safety concerns.
“The BBC will not be able to deliver value for money on the E20 programme in the way that it envisaged in 2015.”
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