BBC and Saatchi to split after leak

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the corporation, is close to breaking the fledgling relationship between Saatchi & Saatchi and the BBC World Service after their controversial discussions on advertising and sponsorship came to light.

The disclosure severely embarrassed BBC Radio International, a division of Worldwide, which is announcing a virtually identical move this week. BBC Radio International will sell advertising and sponsorship for new and repackaged radio shows to countries outside the UK.

Last week, John Willan, the director of BBC Worldwide Music – the unit directly overseeing the project – met World Service managing director Sam Younger after the story of Saatchi’s involvement was leaked to The Sunday Times two weeks ago.

The newspaper reported that the World Service had retained Saatchi to study how the radio service could operate with ads and sponsorship.

BBC Radio International sources blame Saatchi for the leak and Willan and Younger have subsequently discussed bringing the project under the control of Radio International, and ditching Saatchi.

Willan says: “Our plans are very advanced and it makes sense that we become involved if the World Service follows this route.”

Saatchi denies any responsibility for the story. However, sources inside the agency admit that the work is at a sensitive stage and are unclear whether Saatchi will continue to work on the project.

News Analysis, page 21

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