BBC holds talks over floating commercial arm: report

The BBC has held talks with financial advisers about floating part of its commercial arm on the stock market, amid pressure over its market share and public subsidy, a report said today. The Financial Times, quoting unnamed sources, said discussions had been held, including with advisers from investment firm Goldman Sachs and banking giant Credit Suisse, about future ownership of BBC Worldwide.

Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust which governs the public service broadcaster, said he had “an open mind” about the ownership of Worldwide. Announcing a review of Worldwide’s activities yesteday, Mr Lyons told the paper that a separation of Worldwide was “possible to imagine - but it would be a very, very complicated process.”
A BBC spokesman told the paper there were no plans to sell Worldwide, which operates 23 television channels in more than 100 countries and sells BBC branded magazines, merchandise and programme formats and in 2007 bought guidebook publisher Lonely Planet.

The BBC has faced increased criticism from commercial rivals and politicians in recent months for its alleged expansionism, and calls to cut its public subsidy. James Murdoch, chairman and chief executive for Europe and Asia of media giant News Corporation, in August called the scope of the BBC’s activities and ambitions “chilling”.