BBC Under Fire From Advertisers; Axes Licensed Snacks

07 April 2004

Britain's marketers are calling on the government to rein in the BBC or open it up to advertising.

Commenting on the renewal of the publicly funded broadcaster's Royal Charter, the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers claimed that the BBC had damaged the commercial media sector by straying too far from its public service ambit.

"The industry needs the government to make a fundamental choice about the future of the Corporation," ISBA commented. "It can either set it 'free' to compete fully with commercial media on the world stage and develop new funding streams or else tighten its remit and adjust its governance to ensure it adheres to a more clearly defined public service remit."

The comments are part of ISBA's submission to the government review of BBC operations ahead of charter renewal in 2006.

Many in the media sector have complained about the broadcaster's commercially aggressive strategies in recent years. These include chasing ratings (allegedly through 'the dumbing down' of content and negative scheduling) and exploiting the popularity of its shows through licensing deals.

• In the case of the latter, however, the BBC can now argue it is behaving more responsibly than many of its commercial rivals, after deciding to withdraw 'character' licences from foods with high salt, sugar and fat content targeting pre-school kids.

In a bid to combat obesity, BBC Worldwide -- the unit set up to exploit the Corporation's brands around the globe -- revealed it will end licences granted to "daily treat" confectionery bearing characters such as the Teletubbies and Tweenies.

Over the next two years, licences for these products will not be renewed unless their fat, salt and sugar levels fall within prescribed levels. In addition, BBC Worldwide will use its pre-school characters to endorse healthier foods.

The scheme -- the result of a review launched in August -- will initially target licences in Britain, but will eventually apply worldwide. It will not include one-off seasonal items such as Easter eggs.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff