Gov't: BBC must scale back ops

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The BBC's commercial division, BBC Worldwide, must scale back commercial operations, share its license fee and exit investments in overseas production companies and commercial Web sites, an all-party parliamentary report is expected to say today.

The report will be delivered to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham as part of his oversight of the broadcast industry and review of public-service broadcasting.

In a hard-hitting review of the division, the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee has called for the BBC to share its public-service license fee with struggling broadcaster Channel 4 — also owned by the government — and said some of the pubcaster's commercial activities are damaging its brand and players in the marketplace.

"The committee calls for the BBC to rein in its commercial operations, which have expanded and diversified in recent years," the report said. "It concludes that new activities undertaken by ... BBC Worldwide have had an adverse impact on its commercial competitors and risk jeopardizing the reputation of the BBC."

The committee's report is particularly critical of the pubcaster's acquisition of the Lonely Planet travel-publishing group and of its stakes in independent production companies overseas. (partialdiff)
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