BBC wants partner for its magazine business

The BBC is seeking a partner organisation to run the magazine business of its commercial operation, BBC Worldwide.

BBC Magazines runs a portfolio of around 30 mainly spin-off titles from popular television shows, including Top Gear and Doctor Who, along with others such as the popular listings magazine, Radio Times.

Following the completion of a review of its operations, BBC magazines told its staff on Friday that it would seek a partnership with another company 2to enable our portfolio of profitable market-leading titles to meet its potential, while still protecting the BBC’s editorial standards and brands”.

Reports today in The Times suggest that the corporation could sell off the Radio Times, the UK’s third biggest selling magazine, and licence production of titles such as Top Gear to rival publishers.

BBC Magazines is expected to hold preliminary discussions with commercial rivals in the coming weeks after gaining the support of the BBC Trust for the division to ‘test the water’on a possible deal.

The Trust would still have to formally approve any likely partnership.

A BBC Magazines spokeswoman said: “We will only proceed if we can find an appropriate partner who understands the BBC’s values and brands, and if we are able to structure a deal that works for both parties and delivers value back to the BBC.”

BBC Magazines, which is the fourth biggest magazine publisher in the UK, made an operating profit of £11.5m in 2008/2009 – a drop of 31 per cent on the previous financial year.

Analysts told the Financial Times that a half-share in BBC Magazines would be worth between £80m and £90m.

The likely sell-off of part of the magazine division comes after reports emerged in February that Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, would look to dispose of the corporation’s magazine division as part of a massive overhaul of BBC output.

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