The editor and publisher of independent travel magazine Wanderlust has accused the BBC of deliberately targeting her title by launching Lonely Planet magazine on the same day as it celebrates its 100th issue.
Speaking at a culture, media and sport select committee hearing in London this afternoon, Lyn Hughes claimed BBC Magazines – part of the corporation’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide – would launch Lonely Planet on 20 November, and accused the publisher of undercutting her advertising rates.
A BBC Worldwide spokesman today declined to comment on when Lonely Planet will launch.
Describing BBC Worldwide as an “out-of-control juggernaut”, Hughes told MPs: “I would question why any travel magazine would be launching at this time. Our advertisers are finding it tough.
“No other magazine publisher would be launching a travel magazine at this time. They’d be completely daft.”
She added: ‘Why is the BBC launching one at the worst possible time? I can only think they’re smug. They don’t need to make money. They can carry this magazine for the next few years. That’s definitely unfair competition.
‘This must be fairly deliberate how they targeted us. They are phoning round my advertisers and they are undercutting our advertising rates. I really don’t see how they’re going to make any profit
‘BBC Worldwide used to argue that its magazines were in support of TV programming. They do not have a Lonely Planet TV programme, so why are they launching a Lonely Planet magazine. How on earth can that be justified?”
BBC Worldwide bought a 75 per cent stake in travel publisher Lonely Planet for an undisclosed sum last year – a move which has angered some of the BBC’s commercial rivals, who claim Worldwide is entering into territories that are not linked to the BBC’s core public service remit.
Guardian Media Group chief executive Carolyn McCall told the select committee that the BBC was ‘risking licence fee-payers’ money’by taking a stake in Lonely Planet.
‘I don’t understand why they were allowed to buy something like that,’she told MPs. ‘At the moment I think Lonely Planet is losing money. It’s questionable in the current climate whether it would make money.
‘We’re used to competition with the BBC. The issue for us is Worldwide’s boundaries have got so blurred.”
Time Out chairman Tony Elliott added: ‘When they take quantum leaps into areas which have nothing to do with the BBC as a broadcasting entity you have to ask yourself what’s going on here.
‘They are the co-publishers of Hello magazine which they license in India. I just do not understand what that has to do with the BBC. They will argue that makes money but it clear is not what they should be doing.”