back to article BBC workers lose £240k of tech gear in two years

The BBC lost laptops and mobiles worth a total of £241,019 in the past two years. A Freedom of Information request submitted by computer security outfit Absolute Software revealed the Beeb’s losses this morning, reports the Press Association. Staff at the Corporation, BBC Worldwide and other Auntie subsidiaries reported that …


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  1. Gordon Pryra


    That's an amazing figure.

    How many employees does the Beeb actually have with laptops?

    For a company to loose 150 laptops and not start calling in the cops we would be looking at hundreds of thousands of users.

    I have worked in company's with numbers approaching that and 10 losses rings alarm bells.

    1. AndyS
      Thumb Down


      Do the companies you've worked for have open doors to the public? No, thought not. And did you just pull that out of your rear? Thought so.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        What a roaring knob you are

        BBC has security you Plum. Like I could just rock up unannounced to the weather set and steal an on-air kiss from one of those weather-girls and pinch an unattended black-berry and laptop for my trouble on the way out.

        You absolute fool.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Plama Screens

          I used to work for the Beeb a few years ago. I was told a tale that some "workman" managed to walk out of TV Centre with a couple of new plasma screens. A little bravado can go a long way.

        2. GettinSadda


          "BBC has security you Plum. Like I could just rock up unannounced to the weather set and steal an on-air kiss from one of those weather-girls and pinch an unattended black-berry and laptop for my trouble on the way out."

          They do have security in TV Centre, and they still let hundreds of members of the public in on a regular basis to be audience members, interviewees or even just to service the coffee machine. They have separate security at the entrance to the weather centre too, but that is not where all the "weather-girls" are, you will often find some of the highly qualified weather forecasters stood on a beach or in the middle of some National Trust property doing a forecast (and no, I don't understand why either). At these times, guess where the presenter's laptop and phone are.

    2. GettinSadda

      High losses?

      You may think that losing 150 laptops in 2 years would be a lot for your company, but I expect that every one of your laptops spends most of its time either in a building with security guards on the door, or in a private home.

      How many normal companies expect their laptop owners to grab them and rush off to some unexpected crime hot-spot in the middle of the night and then do a 10 minute talk to camera while the laptop is sat in the car the other side of the police cordon where you will return in a few minutes to write a quick update for the news website? How many of your laptops are currently being used by people in war zones? How often do your laptop or phone users spend an 18 hour day filming in a disused warehouse while the equipment remains in the car or a caravan the other side of the site surrounded by 120 extras with nothing to do until they are needed to film the riot scene?

      The BBC is not a normal IT company and I am not hugely surprised by the number of items lost or stolen - I would actually have guessed that it would be higher.

  2. BlueGreen

    Corporation In Tosspot Self-Punt Attention-Seeking Stunt Horror Shocker!

    Bigging Self Up By Bugging Beeb. "Not Loose Change Down Back Of Sofa" Says Cheapjack Publicity Spokesbot Dave Everitt About Loose Change Down Back Of Sofa.

    "Not Riding On FOI For Self Gain" It Continued. "Not Us. No"

    Picked Up By The Register For Some Reason.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not loose change...

      It's not loose change that's almost the salary of half a senior director.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My employers have a simple policy on this: you lose it, you pay for it

    draconian, certainly, but it's brought the loss rates right down

    1. Jimmy Floyd

      Not a chance

      I have a simple response to that: "no." If you want me to have a BlackBerry or laptop with which to do my work then you must take the risk, take out insurance or don't give them to me in the first place.

      1. Andy 97

        Yeah right...

        Big companies and corporations don't have insurance for this kind of thing, it would cost the retirement fund of a Labour minister.

        Most big organizations have a cash deposit that covers losses.

        I think the figures [quoted] are a complete manipulation by some marketing folk, but it makes hand-wringing fodder for the kind of people that feel $ky TV is great value for money and we should all just "scrap the telly tax".

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Perhaps the more significant story here is that the people at Absolute Software (strapline from their website "Absolute Software specialises in software and services that provide an easy way to manage and secure computers."!), think it is acceptable to use FoI requests to try a sell their tat.

    I'm reasonably sure the folks at the BBC have better things to spend their time and money on than some free advertising for them.

    It makes their assertion that "In this case, however, this technology is paid for by the licence payer and employees should be far more careful about how they handle it." seem rather hypocritical to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Get used to it...

      ... FoI isn't a tool for Jo Public, it's a tool for the amrketing gits out there to waste my time by first making me gather the details in the alotted response time and send them back and then have to put up with their markleting calls and emails for the next few months.

      Suffice to say any sales call that probably came from an FoI is now ignored and I refuse to do business with them.

  5. Tom 15

    Expensive laptops

    Each of those laptops was worth ~£1600?

    1. matt 115

      Expensive blackberries

      "17 BlackBerry handsets" at "£9,106" is £536 :S

  6. Dave 142


    How are we to have any idea whether this is a big number or not. How many laptops do other large organisations lose or have stolen each year? How many stolen or lost laptops is this per member of staff? Without that information too this could be summarised as "adding lots of numbers together makes a bigger number"

  7. Stuart 2

    cost per laptop seems a tad high

    So, the BBC equips its staff with laptops that cost £1500?

    1. Shinobi87

      @ Stuart 2

      not such a biggie, that cost proably includes licences aswell. hell an x200 is about 1.3k not including licences for AV, office, enterprise win 7 etc. plus docking stations, extra power leads, laptop bags!

    2. Anonymous John

      Re cost per laptop seems a tad high

      Well as mere gadgets average over £1200 each, why should we be surprised?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Pretty much breaking wind costs £1500 pounds, when you're dealing with Seimens. The BBC is trapped in an exclusive outsourced technology deal, and Seimens screw them for ludicrous amounts for the tiniest service. The irony is, it's just the sort of stupid scheme that the Tories love, in the name of "efficiency".

      Anon, because.

  8. Chris Malme

    Misuse of FOI

    I agree with Billy Whiz - the FOI is not there to be a marketing tool. Absolute Software hits my list of companies who I would not touch with a bargepole.

    It would also be more interesting to see the level of theft/loss expressed as a percentage of kit owned/used by the BBC (including all the various subsidaries).

    Besides, is it really the case that the BBC, and therefore the licence payer, would be footing the bill? Surely the BBC has insurance?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is day light robbery!

    And it's the worst kind of theft...the kind that affects me...

    £219,000 cost of the 146 laptops = £1500 each

    What the HELL were the BBC doing spending that much of our money on each laptop in the first place? Were they used for graphic design? gaming? or were they used for checking e-mail, porn and the occasional increase to the license fee like I suspect. Isn't anyone paying attention to what these people are actually buying compared to what they need?

    £800 gets you a top spec laptop that will do pretty much anything bar playing the latest games...and even then, it'll probably do a reasonable job of that!

    1. Sampler

      Not all cost is hardware

      Yeah you have the box, but then there's service monkeys to build to the corporate spec, licensing for various software packages the corporation uses etc..

      If the Beeb outsource IT like the company I used to work for a laptop build (standard, no fancy extras) would be billed out at a days work, 8 hours at £40/h giving £320 of your laptop cost already - if they don't have such a competitive contract then that price could easily double.

      All that's before you start paying for peripherals and factor in purchasing time, these things don't order themselves.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Blame the outsourcing. Most of them are standard Dell or similar units. But of course because its all outsourced now to the Germans, the laptop will be sold or leased into the BBC at an inflated price. If it's leased then you can bet there will be hefty penalties for laptops that go walkies. Either way, the Siemens execs get a new helicopter.

    3. Andy 97
      Jobs Horns


      The £1600 refers to the contract that Siemens Business Systems have in place with Aunty to run, fix, provide some of the software, network infrastructure including VPN and whatever else they do over 3 years.

      It's a bit like if you loose your nice new Judas Phone to some hoodie on the tube in White City, tough luck son, you still have to pay for the contract.

      Some say that the negotiated deal with Siemens was a really bad deal for The BBC, I think we can all draw our own conclusions.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    the TV licence fee?

    Hope they don't raise it because the staff cant keep company property with them after head off to the pub.

  11. Neil Milner-Harris

    @Dave 142

    I used to manage the infrastructure and comms for a multi national manufacturing business. This meant I was responsible for mobile handsets and laptops amongst other things.

    Now we weren't the biggest company in the world (revenue was circa £50m) but we had hundreds of mobiles and at least 200 laptops in circulation.

    In 4 years we lost 1 laptop that an idiot checked in as hold baggage on a flight, and we never 'lost' a mobile handset. Sure half a dozen got 'broken' beyond repair but none ever went missing.

  12. Chad H.

    Given the size of the BBC...

    Given the size of the BBC, I was expecting a much higher number.

    "software vendor makes mountain from molehill to try to sell tat"?

  13. Chris Miller

    Not unreasonable number

    Given a fleet of several thousand laptops, many of them in locations that have a higher risk factor than the UK. The surprising thing is that fewer mobiles than laptops were reported lost, when I would expect to see a higher number (more of them and easier to misplace).

  14. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Best I ever managed was a phone through a washing machine...

    But a phone fits in your pocket and that's probably where it spends most of its time, no?

  15. swisstoni

    What? How much?

    You can be pretty sure that the company conducting this research wouldn't offer their services to an organisation of the complexity of the BBC for much under half a million. So by not using them, they are saving us nearly £250,000 a year.

    You can bet most of those £1500 laptops were shiny aluminium, fruit flavoured ones. Those luvvies have to express their individuality you know.

    Whatever they were, I do hope they're not including the cost of licences. I would hope they have site wide licences for most of their software, so the net software cost of one machine going out backdoor and another being purchased would be zero.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Forgive the dumb question,...

    but wouldn't a simple dial-home daemon on the OS (or even in the BIOS) help track down a large proportion of stolen laptops once they got connected to the net? (Dragons Den opportunity for someone there)

    Don't corporates act defensively on recovering lost kit? (We had an Op here who was nicking laptops and selling them on ebay - it wasn't until we put a camera in the store-room that we picked up on it. He got away with at least 12 in the end).

    1. ElNumbre

      You are forgiven...

      ...but such technology already exists. Its called Computrace and was bought and is now sold by a company called umm... Absolute Software.

      The last time I looked at it, you have to pay an annual subscription for the service, and IIRC it was the cost equivalent of loosing 1 laptop in 20 every year. As we only "lost" 1 in about 800 laptops, it wasn't cost effective. Far more cost effective to buy encryption software per machine (one off cost) and take the hit.

      As for the BBC, 73 laptops per year, with an estate probably in the tens of thousands, doesn't seem too bad. Say 10000 laptops - that's < 1% that goes walkabout. These stats seem to assume 'stolen', but its just as easy for them to be mis-audited, kept in a drawer undeclaired for emergencies by line managers or not checked in by employee's who are 'off' the BBC grid for months or years at a time.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's less than 0.007% of the Beeb's budget

    Last year's budget for the beeb was £3.5bn. There are about 25 million license fee payers.

    £22k works out at less than 1p per license payer (not per viewer), per year.

    So yes, this is fiddling small change. And for an organisation of about 20k+ staff (including all the Worldwide operations), only losing a hundred or so bits of kit, globally, isn't actually that bad. Not ideal, but not too bad. It's about the same as a 150 person company having one loss per year, which is about on par with my experience (especially when you include phones)

    I'd also be interested to know how much of this gear was lost by foreign correspondents, operating in some of the more 'interesting' parts of the world, rather than just being left on a train in London.

    1. lawman
      Thumb Down

      Theft upon theft

      You assume that the licence fee is justifiable. It's not. By it's very existence thefts of this magnitude can be excused away as being a fraction of the budget etc.

      The BBC only exists in its current form because of the guaranteed income from the licence fee. They don't have to make any decent programmes or compete in the market place like the other "for profit" firms.

      Abolish the licence fee and let the BBC compete on a level playing field. Then we'll see if their grossly overpaid senior staff are worth it. Then we'll see if their sending hundreds of staff to the Olympics, World Cup or Glastonbury contribute to the profitability of the company. Then we'll see if the scandalous abuse and waste of resources that is currently tolerated because it is only a fraction of the budget has an effect on their bottom line.

      You cannot justify theft of laptops on the basis that it's just a fraction of a bigger theft.

      1. jcw

        Great idea!


        Oh, yes please, let's have the BBC on a level playing field and producing the same quality of programmes ITV does! Constantly interrupted by adverts! Yay!


  18. Lottie

    I wonder

    how much of this ended up on eBay?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    people should be more careful shocker

    Most people could do with being a bit more careful with other people's stuff (like their's employer's laptops), but that is not going to happen soon.

    Aside from the abuse of FOI request, it should also be clarified what a BBC subsidiary is, for instance isn't BBC worldwide a commercial entity and so may pay towards some or all of it's staff kit?

    I am just guessing here, but as much as i want to bash the BBC, i doubt with all the information on numbers and percentages and which companies / divisions of the BBC, these losses would be that much different from comparable organisations.

    e.g. Did David attenburger loose a laptop from his crew into a monkey's backside somewhere in Guana? would that happen in a bank in the city?

  20. Anonymous Coward


    Everyone here is an expert (oooh we have 200 laptops)

    I'm sure everyone here have been in war zones, high risk areas (such as Somalia), ultra high risk crime areas?

    As for the prices, anyone looked how much a rugged laptop is? You can easily blow £1500 on a basic model, oh then theres the 3g dongle attached, maybe the added ISDN card, oo how about the satellite comms link?

    I agree, percentage lost and location would be more useful.

  21. Graham Bartlett

    Why that expensive? and why lost?

    Folks, this is the BBC. Their reporters are regularly out in warzones and other places round the arse-end of the world (such as Birmingham or Wales. ;) So let's get real, shall we?

    Why so much for a laptop? Well, a laptop which can survive being dropped whilst diving for cover from a sniper, or put up with driving rain whilst reporting in some industrial-desert Welsh valley, is worth paying extra for. If the BBC were equipping their front-line reporters with anything *less* than a Toughbook (or equivalent), I'd be seriously disappointed. Contrary to Mickey above, £800 does *NOT* get you a top-spec laptop when the "spec" is survivability - ruggedised laptops generally run £1K as the lowest-spec starting price. Since the BBC probably need laptops which can also do a bit of video editting and run real-time broadcast-quality video link compression/decompression and encryption/decryption, £1.5K per laptop is not half bad.

    Of course, if they're actually only getting netbooks for that price then it *would* be a sourcing snafu. But the article doesn't say.

    And why lost? For front-line reporters, there's bullets, bombs, shrapnel, falling masonry and other assorted high-speed flying debris. Locals robbing you at gunpoint is also a hazard of the job. Anywhere round the world, there's also corrupt officials stealing stuff, or you may need to leg it out of town one step ahead of whoever doesn't want stories about them hitting the news. Or simply parking somewhere in Britain and having some scrote put a brick through your side window while you're getting a bacon sarny.

  22. karl 15

    BBC Just say No

    Lost them, or sold them for Coke?

    1. Joe 3

      A title

      A drink of Coke isn't expensive, I'm sure the BBC could get a bulk discount from the supplier. You were referring to the dark-brown drink, right?

    2. Paul 37
      Thumb Up

      Surely not ...

      Absolutely, completely and utterly wrong.

      Everyone knows that the Columbian marching powder budget is subsidised by making documentaries about the horror of drug abuse on sink estates; whilst Tarquil and Tabitha are in the editing suite shoving next weeks wages up their nose .....

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Motorola, back in the early 90s....

    I worked for Motorola in Swindon, we had a grand total of all the laptops left in the building stolen one night. The thieves went round the office and broke open every cabinet where there was a desk with a docking station.

    Funnily, after that security stopped bothering asking everyone to show their laptop on the way in/out of the building. I think they lost interest in the security process after someone taking about 100 out "under their jumper" during a time when there were very few people going in/out.

    I wonder how much of this "loss" is real. I suspect a lot of dead ones that are out of guarantee just get marked as lost in the system before meeting the bin. Probably a lot less paperwork involved in getting a replacement!

  24. Alpha Tony


    How is this even a story?

    I would imagine that for a large international company this level of loss is fairly common. A couple of people in the (relatively small) office I work in have had their work laptops pinched when their homes were burgled and another was mugged while away on business had his taken. That's 3 in the same period out of an office of a couple of dozen. Am not sure how many employees the Beeb has I suspect that if they got anything like a similar percentage they would have lost a lot more than is reported here.

    The only real story here is if the BBC does not insure it's kit. If it doesn't then why the hell not??

    1. Chris Miller

      Why not?

      Because it would:

      a) cost an arm and a leg; and/or

      b) come with a whopping great excess (>> cost of a phone or laptop).

      First rule of insurance - never insure against any loss that you can afford to cover yourself.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re Insurance:

      You'll find most large business don't insure for theft of items under a few grand, The costs wouldn't justify it. Just like a Dixons policy, where your super 5 year extended warranty costs more than buying the laptop 2nd hand six months later.

  25. Paul 37

    HOW Many warzones ?

    The idea that most of the laptops can be written of to the UDA or the Taliban seems a little absurd. For every flack jacketed journalist there are probably 2 dozen glorified junior/middle managers with any combinantion of the words "strategic", "analyst","business", "financial", and "resources" in their job title.

    A much more likely equation is :

    Large number of people made redundant in the last 12 months = reasonable number of laptops "lost" in the last few weeks of employment...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Loss rate

    Last time I researched this, the loss rate for an average corporation was at least 2% per year, for laptops. Some corps report up to 7% per year. So the BBC figures look pretty good to me. Having your laptop "stolen" is easier than justifying a hardware upgrade.

  27. Andy Senyszyn
    Paris Hilton

    £1500 - inc or ex s/w

    Technically, I would argue that this value should be hardware only, unless the numpty who lost their gear was carrying the installation media / only backup of licenses around with them in their carrycase.

    A quick dabble with Fdisk (ah, those were the days...) and as far as anyone's concerned, the laptop has no software on it. And providing the beeb weren't purchasing OEM licenses, they're within their rights to transfer those licenses on to replacement hardware surely?

    And for what it's worth, I did work somewhere with plenty of IT kit laid out and we were careful not to have it nicked - working for a small business don't half help you think about the costs of business... stick that on your national curriculum and smoke it...

    Paris, cos I'd love to steal her laptop for a peep...

  28. live2give


    Look down the back of the sofa i useually find all the tech gear the kids have left down their! come on Auntie pull the other one

  29. galbak

    what kind of security is on these laptops anyway?

    Are they just "normal" laptops that you can reformat, or do they tend to have bios passwords, or tricky security features to bypass before someone else can use them?

  30. SSR

    Probably a Repeat, But...

    1. Are we talking about "lost" versus stolen? It isn't 100% clear.

    2. Why not put this in the context of lost/stolen at other firms, and identify how many employees this applies too. Very pertinent figures!

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