BBC plans weekly magazine link to flagship news programmes

The BBC is to launch a weekly news magazine, expected to be its magazines arm's largest-ever investment.

Project Phoenix, as it is known, is likely to be closely linked to its news programmes Newsnight and Panorama and a working title of Newsbrief has been mooted. A similar project was rumoured in the mid-1990s, but never came to fruition.

The connection with its flagship news formats is a likely result of BBC director general Mark Thompson's shake-up of the service at the end of 2004, when BBC Magazines was told it could only publish titles directly linked to TV programmes.

It has since sold Origin Publishing, which published specialist titles such as Your Hair and Cross Stitch Crazy following the commercial review, but has retained BBC History, BBC Wildlife and Songs of Praise magazines, in a new company, Bristol Magazines.

BBC Magazines recently moved Ashley Munday, its former head of advertising sales, into a new developmental role for a launch the corporation had said at the time was based around a core BBC brand. It has since added that she is working on an international project.

This week the BBC has said it will bring its internet and broadcast news services under a single BBC News brand. The BBC may be looking towards an international market, with a single news branding and strong resonance with overseas audiences.

News weeklies have proved strong while the internet increasingly erodes daily newspaper readership. The Economist's global sales were up 4.5 per cent in the last ABCs to more than 1m while titles such as German magazine Der Spiegel sells more than a million worldwide and the US publication Time has global sales of 5.2.m.

Private Eye, The Spectator and New Statesman all showed decent circulation rises in the latest ABCs, while Dennis title The Week was up 9.8 per cent and political magazine Prospect was the group's biggest riser, up 14.2 per cent.

A spokesman for BBC Magazines said: "We have a lot of projects on the go here at BBC Magazines, of which Phoenix is the name we've given to just one.

However, we cannot comment on any of these projects for commercial reasons."

Project Phoenix is predicted to launch either late this year or early 2007.

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