ITV's Allen Touts BBC Worldwide Sell-Off

16 June 2004

ITV chief executive Charles Allen -- often criticised for his greater intimacy with the arcana of accountancy than the mores of television -- last week addressed the cross-party Parliamentary Select Committee on culture, media and sport.

Displaying a flash of showbiz chutzpah that would have raised eyebrows at the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Allen told the parliamentarians that if the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, was privatised, it would enhance the efforts of other UK broadcasters to sell their programmes globally.

"I think all of the BBC's commercial activities should be privatised to have a better divide between public service and commercial activities," he argued.

Allen's enthusiasm for such a move may be fuelled by the fact that BBC Worldwide last year lightened the burden on TV licence-payers with profits of £123 million ($226.4m; €183.7m). A similar contribution would greatly assuage the bottom-line problems of ailing businesses such as ITV.

Word from around the media parish pump also has it that after leaving the hearing, Allen continued to tout his case for a sell-off, telling journalists it could open the door to a joint international programme sales venture with Channel 4 and Five.

Data sourced from: Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff