Here is a blog post to save people doing what I've just done to try to nail this one down: how many people work for the BBC?
The BBC press office pointed me to the BBC Trust report 2009/10. Table 2-11 on page 63 contains figures for the "total average PSB [public service broadcasting?] headcount (full-time equivalent)" at the BBC:
Year end 2006 18,860
Year end 2007 17,914
Year end 2008 17,677
Year end 2009 17,078
Year end 2010 17,238
Strangely, this Guardian article in May 2007 says that according to figures from the Corporation, "overall headcount in the public service departments of the BBC is now 21,360."
But that figure would tally with the working in this BBC response to a Freedom of Information request in February 2011 which tabulated the number of BBC staff "employed on permanent and fixed-term contracts":
The FOI response specifically excluded staff working for: BBC Studios & Post Production Ltd, UKTV, BBC World, BBC Worldwide Ltd, World Service Trust (around 500 employees) and BBC Children in Need.
I.e. those areas not funded by the licence-fee payer and thus exempt from the FOI Act.
Presumably if you add in staff numbers working in those departments to the figures in the FOI response you arrive somewhere near the 2006 figure the BBC reported - 23,500 staff.
Wikipedia says there are around 23,000 BBC staff in total although the three links cited as footnotes contain no figures to back up this number. In February 2008, The Times also used the 23,000 figure.
But why there is such a discrepancy between the FOI request and the figures in the Trust Report escapes me at the moment. Counting or not counting the World Service (2400 staff with 650 due to go) might make a difference.
As the World Service is funded by an FCO grant it could be 'counted in' as tax-payer funded or 'counted out' as it is not funded through the licence-fee.
And what of freelancers in the figures?
If you can help clear any of this up, do get in touch.
In the meantime, it looks like I'll be going with the disappointingly vague: "employing more than 20,000 staff".
P.S. Usefully that FOI request also has a table for the number of staff working in the BBC News Division (with a not so useful gap between 2004 and 2010):
A note explains that "due to organisational restructuring in April 2009 the News division now includes English
Regions, accounting for the increased headcount figure for December 2010."