The publicly funded British Broadcasting Corporation has called in accountancy firm Andersen to investigate its commercial arm BBC Worldwide after recent allegations of corruption.

Following an investigation by Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, the unit’s director of global marketing and brand development Jeff Taylor was recently arrested on suspicion of accepting illegal commissions from suppliers of toys based on the Corporation’s shows [WAMN: 05-Nov-01]. Taylor has not been charged, but is helping ICAC with its enquiries.

The use of an external firm to review BBC Worldwide’s operations – a move demanded by Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, chair of the audit committee of the BBC board of governors, and approved by director general Greg Dyke – is the first time such an action has been undertaken in the Corporation’s history.

However, the BBC insisted the Andersen inquiry, which began last week, was not designed to root out guilty parties: “It’s about making sure our systems are robust.”

One aspect Andersen is expected to investigate is whether the commercial focus of BBC Worldwide – which generated £587 million in revenue and £23m in pre-tax profits in the last fiscal year – could create an environment incompatible with the BBC’s public role.

News source: The Times (London)