The BBC Trust has published a draft framework setting out the remit and requirements of the BBC’s commercial services – BBC Worldwide, BBC Global News Ltd and BBC Studios and Post Production – the first time the UK pubcaster’s governing body has set out its expectations in a single public document.
The Trust has established five principals that it says will ensure that the operations of the BBC’s commercial services are consistent with the principles of licence fee-funded services, and that the services operate fairly in relation to the wider market.
These are: that the BBC’s commercial activities must be consistent with the broadcaster’s public purposes and uphold its good reputation; that commercial activity should principally focus on securing a return from BBC content and brands and that where acquisitions or equity investments are proposed, the executive board must be satisfied that they are necessary to meet business objectives and that all other options have been considered; that commercial activities must generate a return for licence fee payers; that activities should meet a baseline requirement for commercial efficiency set by the Trust and that there should be clear separation between publicly funded BBC activity and its commercial services.
Under the Trust’s draft framework, the BBC executive board is responsible for setting and reviewing commercial strategies and business plans, although significant commercial proposals remain subject to Trust approval.
The board will report quarterly to the Trust on all commercial activities and the Trust will review the BBC’s compliance with its framework at least once every five years.
The publication of the framework follows last year’s joint review by the Trust and the Executive of BBC governance, which recommended measures to make the distinction between the roles of the two bodies clearer.
The draft commercial activities framework will be subject to a 12-week public consultation.
“The way that the Trust sets and monitors clear expectations for every BBC service across TV, radio and online has successfully driven improvements for audiences,” said BBC Trustee and chair of the Trust’s services committee Suzanna Taverne.
“We want to apply the same principles to the BBC’s commercial services, which play an important role in both upfront investment and delivering profits back into programmes for UK audiences. This will mean there are clear, published requirements that we can review performance against and make sure that commercial activity is always appropriate and doesn’t damage the BBC or the wider market.”