Saturday, July 7, 2018


The Commons Public Accounts Committee report on the BBC's commercial activities expresses concern about many things. It's concerned that two-thirds of tv drama is funded with money from commercial partners; it's worried that the BBC blurs 'financial returns' from BBC Worldwide with BBC Worldwide's 'investment' in BBC output. But it is also worried about tensions between the BBC's commercial activities and its 'Public Purposes' - and wants the BBC Board to think harder.  Here's the relevant section.

First, if the BBC decides to increase licence fee payers’ access to programmes by extending the period for which they are available on the iPlayer, it may reduce opportunities for the commercial exploitation of these programmes. Second, the Global News subsidiary’s BBC World News TV channel arguably delivers wider benefits for the British taxpayer by boosting the UK’s reputation overseas through its provision of trusted and independent news. However, the market for selling advertising for global news is very difficult, and the future looks challenging, leading the BBC to seek a public subsidy towards Global News operations in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa. We are not convinced about the extent to which the Board explicitly considers the balance between the delivery of commercial returns and the public benefit when examining both these specific situations and the performance of the commercial activities more broadly. 

Recommendation: The BBC should clarify for itself, Ofcom and Parliament how it will resolve tensions between commercial activities and Public Purposes in future, and should develop its ability to quantify the level of commercial performance it is sacrificing due to the Public Purposes. Specifically, the BBC should quantify the commercial income it will forego if it decides to make more series available for longer to licence fee payers via iPlayer. The BBC should also write to us explaining how Global News could continue as a commercial venture if it were to receive a public subsidy.

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