As reported by the Guardian, a report published today by the House of Commons culture select committee criticises the ‘arrogance’ of the BBC Trust and the BBC for brushing off MPs’ concerns over the expansion of the BBC’s commercial activities, particularly BBC Worldwide’s acquisition of Lonely Planet. In the report’s conclusions the committee stated:
“The purchase of Lonely Planet remains the most egregious example of the nature of BBC Worldwide’s expansion into areas where the BBC has no, or very limited existing interests. Had the BBC Trust been a more responsible oversight body, it would have given more serious consideration to the likely impact on the commercial sector. We can only speculate as to why it did not.
“Our report demonstrated that, in terms of public disclosure of the financial details of the Lonely Planet purchase, the BBC was certainly not as transparent as it claimed to us to have been. The BBC’s arrogance demonstrated in much that it presented in its case to us in this respect, and in the way that it ignored this aspect in its response, is self-defeating in terms of the preservation of its public reputation.”
The criticisms follow culture minister Ben Bradshaw’s comments at last week’s Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge: he said there could be a case for a ’smaller licence fee’ and also suggested that the BBC Trust model is not ‘sustainable’.
In response to today’s report, the BBC Trust said it had been carrying out its own review of the BBC’s commercial services, the completion of which has been delayed ‘until there is greater clarity around the Digital Britain report’. The Trust announced changes to BBC Worldwide’s governance which were reported to the committee last week, it said. “These changes addressed a number of the issues to which the committee’s latest report refers,” it claimed.