Worldwide says Trust crack down won’t stop expansion

BBC Worldwide has pledged to continue expanding production and distribution activities despite a report from the BBC Trust last week that was critical of several activities at the commercial arm of the UK public broadcaster.

Wayne Garvie, managing director of content and production, BBC Worldwide said that a key point in the report was that it should not acquire businesses other than in ‘exceptional circumstances’. “Look at our indie investments, all of these were made in ‘exceptional circumstances’,” he said.

BBC estimates suggest around £460 million (US$665 million) has been sunk into indie merger and acquisition activity in the UK in recent years and it says it is responsible for £8-to-9 million of that total.

Worldwide has invested in several indie producers in the UK and abroad. Investments include Left Bank and Baby Cow in the UK and Temple Street, GP, and Freehand in Canada, Argentina and Australia respectively.

In the right circumstances Worldwide will continue to strike such deals, Garvie said, although the focus will be on the territories where it has already established a foothold.

“There’s no plan to extend the international framework,” he said. “It’s all about finding the right talent – we’re quite late to the game in terms of setting up in Spain, Italy or Holland and it would be difficult to find the right purchase.”

One of Worldwide’s most controversial deals was acquisition of a controlling stake in travel guide business Lonely Planet. However, rather than rein in activities here, Garvie said Worldwide is currently looking for an exec to head up Lonely Planet TV, based in New York, with a view to developing TV content and blocks based on the brand.

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