Commercial Rivals Accuse BBC of Sponsorship Rules Dodge

10 March 2008

LONDON: Commercial television and radio broadcasters are reportedly up in arms over the BBC's plans to sell sponsorship packages for live events.

According to The Times newspaper, rivals are to complain to the BBC Trust – the governing body of the publicly-funded, commercial-free broadcaster - that advertisers are being offered the chance to promote their brands during such shows as the Children in Need telethon.

The report in the Murdoch-controlled News Corporation title,which frequently takes the BBC to task, quotes an apparently outraged Rupert Howell, ITV's new sales director, thundering: "Such encroachment on to commercial territory could have a profound and distorting effect on the market."

The corporation, which offers the service to marketers via its website, says it is not breaking any rules because events are sponsored rather than programmes.

ITV believes, nonetheless, its rival is exploiting a loophole.

Weighing in with support  for this view is Andrew Harrison, ceo of trade body the Radio Centre, who complains: "By overtly selling sponsorship on broadcast events of this kind, often below commercial market rates and offering contractual credits around BBC programming, the BBC significantly distorts the market for sponsorship." 

A BBC Trust spokesman said that it was aware of the complaints but that it could not comment further until they had been considered.

Data sourced from The Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff