BBC Trust sanctions retention of Lonely Planet

BBC Worldwide is to keep its Lonely Planet acquisition, following an 18-month review by the BBC Trust. However, it is highly unlikely there will ever be another commercial deal of that scale and nature for the division.

Publishing a new remit for the commercial arm of the BBC, Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons said there “would be an end to mergers and acquisitions unless there are exceptional circumstances”.

“The Trust and the Executive acknowledge that the boundaries for Worldwide activity need to be clearer,” he added.

The £89m deal to buy a 75% stake in Lonely Planet in 2007 led to an increased level of criticism of BBC Worldwide’s activities.

Earlier this year, MPs questioned the impact of its activities on commercial rivals, while News Corp chief executive and chairman James Murdoch has suggested the organisation is moving away from its core remit of providing public service content.

Lyons outlined a series of guidelines for BBC Worldwide, which sells the rights of programming such as Strictly Come Dancing to other countries. Within those he promised a “clearer focus” on securing value from the BBC’s own intellectual property and an exit from any activity that is “not in keeping with the BBC brand”.

He also made clear that BBC Worldwide’s plan for Lonely Planet “secures the best value for licence fee payers and will keep its long-term future under review”.

However, some of the other non-BBC branded international channels may not have a long-term future with Worldwide.

Lyons announced “a divestment of stakes in non-BBC branded international channels over time where it makes commercial sense”. This could include channels such as Animal Planet.

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