ITV has upped the ante in the ongoing debate about the extent of
the BBC’s commercialism by calling for greater investigation into its
In a response to the BBC’s first mission statement, The BBC Beyond 2000,
which defends the current funding formula, Leslie Hill, ITV network
chairman, pointed to a recent survey by Zenith Media as evidence of the
scale of the corporation’s commercial activity.
The survey of the top 20 UK media owners by commercially generated
revenue showed the BBC ranked at number 14.
In the light of this, Hill has called for television industry watchdogs
to be given greater powers of scrutiny into the BBC’s commercial
activities, to ensure it does not gain an unfair competitive
Hill also expressed concern about what ITV sees as the lack of clarity
surrounding the BBC’s commercial operations.
’ITV strongly supports the licence fee, but seeks arrangements which
will ensure that the UK commercial broadcasting market is not distorted
in a way which causes unfair competition,’ he said.
Hill has now called for a number of measures to ensure absolute
First, improvements to the presentation of BBC accounts, with enhanced
powers for the BBC’s Fair Trading and Audits Committees. Second,
extended powers for the Office of Fair Trading and Independent
Television Commission to scrutinise the BBC’s commercial activities. And
third, oversight of BBC accounts by the National Audit Office.
Hill added: ’As competition intensifies with the launch of digital
services, it is increasingly important there should be no cross-subsidy
between the BBC’s publicly funded activities and its growing number of
The BBC’s comprehensive report was prepared at the request of culture
secretary Chris Smith. It claims the licence fee ’ensures the BBC meets
the needs of not just one potentially lucrative section of the community
but the whole of the UK’. On the other hand, it believes commercial
services funded by advertising, sponsorship or subscription lead to ’a
single-minded drive to increase audiences’.
A spokeswoman said: ’The BBC, ever conscious of the need to improve its
overall accountability, has made great strides in the last two years.
Our annual report and accounts to Parliament contain commercial
information and analysis to the same level as UK plcs.’
Ray Snoddy, page 12
THE BBC’S MISSION
’We aim to be the world’s most creative and trusted broadcaster and
programme maker, seeking to satisfy all our audiences in the UK with
services that inform, educate and entertain and that enrich their lives
in ways that the market alone will not. We aim to be guided by our
public purposes; to encourage the UK’s most innovative talents; to act
independently of all interests; to aspire to the highest ethical
standards; to offer the best value for money; to be accountable to our
licence payers; to endeavour to be the world’s leading international
broadcaster; and to be the best - or to learn from the best - in
everything we do.