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New BBC Worldwide to be curbed - 06-March-2009, 12:40

BBC Worldwide to be curbed

bbcworldwideSir Michael Lyons is chairman of the BBC Trust, the governing body that supervises all of the BBCs activities. In a major interview with the London Times on March 4 he said he had halted any further expansion at BBC Worldwide, the BBCs commercial arm.

BBC Worldwide has been frequently criticised for acting in too commercial a fashion, and outside its core remit which is to sell and help fund BBC programming. A deal last year whereby BBC Worldwide bought the Lonely Planet guidebook publisher for 90m was heavily criticised as having little to do with the public broadcasters role. Other publicly-funded publishing ventures have led to the direct closing of commercial rivals (for example, the BBCs Match of the Day soccer magazine and the closure of rival Shoot! publication). Besides publishing, BBC Worldwide has invested in FM radio stations in India, and has directly participated in programme-making companies in the UK and overseas.

Part of the argument for buying Lonely Planet was that it would be possible to exploit travel-related BBC intellectual property, Sir Michael added. There are already tests for these acquisitions but what I am saying is that these tests will be tougher in the future.

Sir Michael told The Times that a tighter set of guidelines would be created for Worldwide. BBC Worldwide has doubled profits over the past three years (to 112.5m).

Despite the changes, Sir Michael said he would be looking sympathetically at proposed co-operation between BBC Worldwide and fellow-public broadcaster Channel 4. He also said that Channel 4 might well buy out Virgin Medias 50% stake in UKTV (the other 50% is held by BBC Worldwide).
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