BBC Trust says Worldwide should be 'more contained'

The BBC’s commercial arm, which operates ad-funded websites and publishes magazines, needs a “more contained focus”, the BBC Trust has said today.

The corporation’s governing body has published its initial findings in an investigation into the BBC’s money-making activities.

It has provisionally ruled that BBC Worldwide needs “greater clarity” in terms of its direction and strategic aims, and needs “a more contained focus for its operations”.

But the Trust said it still supported the ambition of BBC Worldwide to make money from the corporation’s intellectual property, which is then reinvested in programming.

BBC Worldwide has come under attack from a number of commercial rivals, including newspaper publishers who expressed concern about its “passion” websites and magazine publishers such as Time Out and Wanderlust following its acquisition of travel group Lonely Planet.

The BBC Trust said its final decisions on BBC Worldwide would be deferred until Lord Carter published his Digital Britain report in the summer, which will explore ways in which BBC Worldwide could help support other public service broadcasters such as Channel 4.

“In our view it would be wrong for the Trust to take decisions based on its current review until this new question about BBC Worldwide has been resolved,” the Trust said in its interim statement today.

“We will return to the question of BBC Worldwide strategy as soon as there is sufficient clarity around the nature of the partnership options for the Trust to reach fully informed decisions.”

The Commons culture, media and sport select committee is also investigating the BBC’s commercial activities. Press Gazette understands it is likely to produce its final report in April.

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