BBC Trust considers 'tightening' BBC Worldwide remit

The BBC Trust looks set to “tighten” the remit of BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial arm, following complaints that it has become too big.

Sir Michael Lyons, the BBC Trust chairman, told MPs today that the Trust’s investigation into the BBC’s money-making arm was likely to recommend that the scope of BBC Worldwide be ‘modestly contained”.

‘Worldwide has been an extraordinary success story, but nonetheless it is now appropriate to review the boundaries of that. We’re of the view that they need to be modestly contained,’Lyons told the cross-party culture, media and sport select committee.

He later added: ‘There is a case, and we intend to move forward, for tightening the boundaries around Worldwide’s activity.”

The BBC has faced complaints from a broad range of rival media organisations, including Time Out, Wanderlust, the Guardian Media Group and the Radiocentre about its commercial activities.

The Trust is due to report back with its findings ‘in the not too distant future”, Lyons said.

‘We were concerned about the risks to the BBC brand from a growing collection of programmes, stations and media products,’he added.

‘We had an interest to explore whether there were adequate controls in place. We were interested in the interface between the BBC’s commercial activities and the straightforward public service activities of the BBC.”

Lyons said BBC Worldwide had been ‘remarkably successful’in making money from BBC material around the world. Last year, the business paid a £117m dividend back to the corporation to reinvest in programme-making.

Lyons also faced questions from the panel of MPs about the crossover between BBC Worldwide and BBC management. Worldwide chief executive John Smith sits on the BBC executive board.

‘This is on the list of issues which the Trust has set for the director general and the executive board to explore. I can assure you that this will be included [in the review],’he said.

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