BBC too commercial, say advertisers

An overly commercial and competitive BBC unfairly restricts access to audiences, says the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers. The industry body has made the comments ahead of the start of the Commons Culture of Committee inquiry into the commercial operations of the BBC.

The inquiry by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee begins tomorrow (November 4). It follows complaints that the Beeb’s commercial operations are stifling competition and hurting private sector rivals.

The Committee will primarily look at activities of BBC Worldwide, the BBC’s money making commercial arm, whose profits soared to £118m last year.

It will investigate the entirety of BBC Worldwide’s activities, from its magazine and DVD businesses, to its international sales of programmes such as Dr Who, Top Gear and Strictly Come Dancing.

The Committee is also expected to call John Smith, the chief executive of BBC Worldwide, to justify its acquisition of the Lonely Planet travel guides, which drew criticism from the guides’ rival, Time Out.

It will also examine the international version of the BBC’s website, bbc.com, which has been criticised for carrying ads from companies such as Rolex. Plans for a video-on-demand service offering more than 10,000 hours of TV programming will also face scrutiny.

ISBA’s public affairs director Ian Twinn says: “The BBC is an important issue for advertisers, and we have long expressed concerns over the impact that the sprawling broadcaster has on the health of the commercial sector and therefore on advertisers’ abilities to reach mass audiences.

“The BBC is too big. It is overly funded and unfairly competitive with commercial media, with its activities extending not just across television and radio but into the online space too. It inhibits advertisers’ ability to communicate effectively and efficiently.”

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