BBCmag deal sparks job worries at flagship titles

Is there room for two history magazines at Origin Publishing in Bristol?

BBC Worldwide is believed to be on the verge of acquiring Bristol-based magazine publisher Origin Publishing, prompting fears of job losses on award-winning titles.

Some believe the plan involves an arrangement to transfer BBC Music and BBC History magazines to Bristol and put them under the control of Origin. BBC Wildlife, which is already based in Bristol, is also said to be included in the plans.

The move has led to doubts over the future of staff, particularly as Origin publishes Living History, a rival to BBC History Magazine, which could end up being merged with its main competitor.

The announcement is expected to come as a shock to staff, who have been kept in the dark throughout the negotiations.

Sources claim BBC Worldwide was looking for a more cost-effective way of producing some of its special interest titles.

The BBC History, Music and Wildlife titles are respected in their fields but have struggled in recent years to show real signs of sales growth.

Despite increasing its news-stand sales by 8 per cent and reaching an all-time high in its subscriptions sales, up by 16 per cent, BBC History Magazine was down 1 per cent in the latest ABCs to 51,303, while BBC Music Magazine declined 12.8 per cent to 61,071.

Sales of BBC Wildlife Magazine have risen 4 per cent in the past six months following its summer relaunch, but its circulation was also down by almost 5 per cent year-on-year.

“The BBC is known to be an admirer of the low-cost, no-frills approach and that’s why it chose Origin, but it is going to raise all sorts of questions about credibility,” a source said.

Rosamund Kidman Cox, who has edited BBC Wildlife since 1981, has gained enormous respect for her dedication and expertise. Greg Neal, editor of BBC History Magazine, and Helen Wallace, editor of BBC Music, are also highly regarded.

Andy Marshall, managing director of Origin, told Press Gazette: “They are great titles. I can’t be drawn any further than that.

“On the history side, we are clearly related – both are special interest magazines and it would be an interesting fit.”

Nicholas Brett, deputy managing director of BBC Magazines, refused to comment on the deal, saying: “We talk to lots of people and when we are having conversations we don’t really make any comment.”

Origin Publishing employs 100 staff. It publishes 30 magazines and newsletters, including contract titles for HMV and Waterstone’s, the consumer magazines Your Hair and Focus and a number of cross-stitching publications.

BBC Worldwide is also hoping to extend its presence in contract publishing, having recently agreed a “partner publishing” deal with Haymarket to clinch big magazine contracts in the women’s and retail markets.

By Ruth Addicott

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