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    BBC Accused of Overspending Taxpayers' Millions on Withering Soap Opera

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    In a new scathing report, it has been revealed that the British public service broadcaster has been accused of "outrageously overspending" on one of its longest running programmes that follows lives of east London residents throughout hundreds of episodes.

    The National Audit Office found that the BBC, funded by taxpayers via TV license fees, would deviate from its original budget by $34 million (£27 mln) and ultimately spend $109.7 million (£86.7 mln) to rebuild the set of TV series EastEnders.

    The show has been broadcast since February 1985 and is the BBC's flagship programme. According to the NAO report, the BBC will not be able to deliver value for money on the E20 programme — to replace and enlarge the external EastEnders set and improve various infrastructure at BBC Elstree Centre — in the way that it initially planned.

    "The BBC will not be able to deliver value for money on E20 in the way that it originally envisaged. It is surprising that some of the reasons for this were built in from the beginning. Despite recent project management improvements, E20 is late and over budget against its 2015 plans. We believe that the planned benefits are still broadly achievable, but given the high-risk nature of E20 it will need close scrutiny until it is finished," Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said on Thursday.

    The auditors concluded that delays and increased costs were missed and could have been addressed earlier by the BBC.

    The broadcaster underestimated aspects of complexity, cost and risks of its approach.

    "There was also insufficient construction project management expertise to identify critical design issues, for example with the Front Lot. Furthermore, while they did engage with each other, the programme team and EastEnders production (the end users of the set) were not sufficiently integrated, leading to ineffective design development and change processes," the report said. 

    A BBC spokesperson told Sputnik in a statement: 

    "The set of EastEnders was built in 1984 and only intended for use for two years. Over thirty years later, the show remains one of the BBC's flagship programmes and yet is filming from a set that is no longer fit for purpose. The new set will be suitable for HD filming for the first time and extend Walford to better reflect modern East End London. It's a large, complex project which has already delivered many other vital improvements at BBC Elstree Centre but like any building work of this scale there have been challenges on the way, including construction market issues beyond our control and from working on a brownfield site. As the NAO recognises we've already made improvements and are keeping the project under close scrutiny."    

    The soap opera project is funded entirely from the $190.4 (£150.50)-a-year TV licence fee.

    EastEnders once regularly attracted 20 million viewers per episode but now struggles to attract 7million.

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