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EastEnders episode cost £700,000

The BBC spent almost £700,000 on its anniversary half-hour live episode of EastEnders last year, a new report has revealed.

Corporation bosses earmarked an extra half a million pounds over and above normal costs to fund the 25th anniversary programme.

The figures are revealed in a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) into the way the BBC manages the costs of continuing drama, which also shows the Walford soap will spend nearly £7 million on cast members this year.

It found the cost of six key dramas, including EastEnders and Casualty, has reduced by a fifth in real terms over the past eight years.

However with audiences declining, the NAO study also found the cost per viewer for the six programmes had actually risen by almost 9% in real terms over the same period.

The NAO concluded a lack of formal objectives for the dramas meant it was unable to say whether the BBC was actually delivering good value.

But it said the corporation had taken "important steps" towards achieving value for money with its cost-savings.

The NAO looked into UK-wide shows Casualty, Doctors, EastEnders and Holby City, plus the Scotland-only series River City and Wales's Pobol y Cwm which cost a total of £102.5 million in 2009/10.

BBC1 controller Danny Cohen said on Tuesday: "Continuing drama on BBC1 delivers high-quality British programmes that reach huge and appreciative audiences.

"Today's NAO report shows costs have dropped by 20% but at the same time, audience appreciation has risen considerably. On this basis, it provides excellent value for money for licence fee payers across the UK."

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