The BBC is planning to create “a major national visitor attraction” to exploit its links with its gardening TV shows such as Gardeners’ World and Ground Force.
The multimillion pound attraction is due to open to the public in spring 2004. The BBC refuses to say whether the project, which is being managed by its BBC Factual and Learning division, is being funded by the licence fee, but an advertisement in The Times for a manager to oversee the project makes it clear that the BBC is prepared to negotiate “land purchase” so that the attraction can go ahead.
The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers’ director of public affairs Ian Twinn says: “This is another example of the BBC being quite aggressive commercially, and it does raise questions about its long-term funding.
He adds: “We want the BBC to be successful, to draw people to TV and to keep standards high, but if it continues to exploit commercial assets using licence-payers money, it gains a commercial edge over its competitors.”
The move follows last year’s closure of the loss-making BBC Experience, an interactive London-based exhibition intended to give the public an inside view of broadcasting. The venture cost &£500,000 a year to run.
The BBC is known to have considered opening a national visitor attraction near the NEC in Birmingham. The BBC already uses the NEC for a number of exhibitions, including the Good Homes Show, and has created a garden at the venue for its Gardeners’ World Live show.