BBC Worldwide could be partly privatised

The BBC is considering the part-privatisation of its commercial operations, BBC Worldwide, throwing into question discussions of a tie-up with Channel 4.

Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson (pictured), BBC director general has told The Guardian that the scrutiny is part of a wider review of its commercial arm.

Other options include offering a stake to another broadcaster which could be either local or international, as well as a stock market listing of the commercial business which last year reported annual revenues of about £1bn.

BBC Worldwide sells the rights of programming such as Strictly Come Dancing to other countries. It also licenses merchandise and publishes magazines for programmes such as Top Gear.

The move throws into question a long mooted joint venture with Channel 4. In July, BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith said an inking of a deal between the two was imminent.

If the joint venture had gone ahead it would have helped plug a £150m funding gap Channel 4 faces from 2012.

The BBC Trust last week ordered a review of the BBC’s activities. It will commence on 2012 when the digital switchover of services is completed.

Critics have claimed that the organisation has been moving away from its core remit of providing public service content, with News Corporation chief executive and chairman James Murdoch, recently calling for it to be dramatically reduced in size.

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