BBC Trust curbs activities of Worldwide

The BBC Trust has issued a report curbing the activities of the BBC’s commercial arm Worldwide and ruled out future acquisitions like that of travel publishing company Lonely Planet last year.

However, Worldwide will continue to own Lonely Planet, and the magazine of the same name which was controversially launched last November.

Today’s recommendations from the BBC governing body follow an 18-month review of the “mandate, strategy and governance arrangements for BBC commercial activity”.

The report calls for:

  • An end to mergers and acquisitions unless there are exceptional circumstances;
  • A clearer focus on securing value from the BBC’s own intellectual property;
  • An exit from any activity that is not in keeping with the BBC brand;
  • Divestment of stakes in non-BBC branded international channels over time where it makes commercial sense;
  • A more transparent ‘first look’, with greater market testing to establish the right pricing structures.

On the subject of Lonely Planet, the report states: “The Trust would not expect to consider a commercial deal of the scale and nature of the Lonely Planet acquisition in future.”

BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons said: “Worldwide is a successful business which brings both significant financial benefits for the licence fee payer and a tangible boost to the creative economy. But the Trust and the Executive both acknowledge that the boundaries for Worldwide activity need to be clearer.

“Our commercial operations are not exempt from the BBC’s public mission. They must keep the public purposes at their heart, engaging carefully with markets globally to help ‘bring the UK to the world and the world to the UK’, whilst protecting and promoting the BBC’s brand and reputation.

“We’re satisfied that these changes will provide much-needed clarity and a greater alignment with the BBC’s public purposes, without stifling Worldwide’s ability to perform as a thriving and profitable entity.”

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