Hyzaar (Losartan Hydrochlorothiazide) Buy Z Multiple Viagra Pill Usage Cialis Sale Online Canada Aldara Online Purchase Glyburide For Gestational Diabetes 2.5 Mg

The BBC and Lonely Planet: it will never happen again


10:08 am - April 9th 2009

by DonaldS    


      Share on Tumblr

So, the waiting‘s over. The Select Committee Report on BBC Commercial Operations was published on Tuesday. And the verdict is clear: the kind of acquisition that the BBC purchase of Lonely Planet represents should never happen again (pdf, p. 10, para. 22):

There is clearly a balancing act between allowing Worldwide to expand and potentially generate greater returns for the BBC, and limiting its operations in order to ensure it upholds the BBC’s reputation and does not unfairly distort the market… We recommend that the commercial criteria and fair trading guidelines should be returned to the pre-2007 position, whereby all commercial activity must have a clear link with core BBC programming.

Not only that. The Committee was also critical of how the BBC handled the purchase itself (pdf, p. 14, paras. 36, 38):

In evidence, competitors including Time Out and Wanderlust complained that it was difficult to establish and comprehend the price the BBC had paid, and therefore whether it was distorting the market. Their concerns are justified… To say, therefore, that the BBC has been less than forthcoming, in a timely fashion, about the Lonely Planet deal is an understatement.

And on the launch of Lonely Planet Magazine specifically (pdf, p. 30, para. 91):

…the BBC must take due care not to distort the market, and it should not buy new brands—as it did with Lonely Planet—to enter new markets. Rather than benefiting commercial competitors, the inherent advantages that BBC Magazines has over its rivals means that it can dominate markets at the expense of others.

In conclusion (pdf, pp. 30, 36, paras. 93, 113):

This Report is critical of the acquisition of the Lonely Planet brand, its exploitation through the recent launch of Lonely Planet magazine and the market-distorting effects of those initiatives… We believe it is in the interests of the UK’s creative economy as a whole that BBC Worldwide’s activities are reined back.

All of which, funnily enough, is exactly what I argued previously (and last year). The accusation of market distortion was the most serious aimed at the LP acquisition, and it has been upheld. The only down-side is that the Committee fell short of recommending the immediate sale of Lonely Planet. The MPs’ concern is that such a sale would incur losses for the taxpayer (because the BBC over-paid by any chance?), something that has disappointed other travel publishers. (Though it won’t surprise me if Olive Magazine is looked at again.)

It’s a pity that MPs essentially recommended inaction, but at least BBC Worldwide won’t be allowed to bulldoze a thriving, creative sector again any time soon. Lonely Planet, like its competitors in the travel information market, was able to survive and thrive without state ownership. The Committee agrees with me: this isn’t what our BBC is for.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Donald is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is a travel journalist, editor, author and copywriter. In the wake of the 2005 General Election, he co-founded and edited The Sharpener for a couple of years. He writes the occasional book or newspaper article for money, as well as sharing his thoughts here for free. Also at: hackneye donaldstrachan.com
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Media

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


I wonder whether, finally, the high point of BBC hubris has passed?

A pretty high high point nonetheless!

I would argue that BBC worldwide should simply be subject to the restrictions that are placed on other companies. If Murdoch had bought lonely planet, no one would care, yet clearly that would also ‘distort’ the market. So yes, place restrictions to stop large companies ‘bulldozing a thriving, creative sector’, but BBC Worldwide doesn’t require special regulations. BBC worldwide does not exist to fulfil Public Service obligations, it exists to return profits back to the BBC.

Exactly @ Astem. Although it should be forced to follow the disclosure requirements that it would face if it were a plc.

#2
> If Murdoch had bought lonely planet, no one would care, yet clearly that would also ‘distort’ the market.

Murdoch already has significant publishing interests, in the shape of HarperCollins. So, no, there wouldn’t have been anything like the outcry if he’d bought LP. (After all, RougGuides is part of Penguin, i.e. Pearson). TimeOut’s book publishing is ultimately owned by Bertelsmann. And so on.

However, if you think that any of those have *anything like* the cross-subsidization power in the UK travel market as the BBC, you’re tripping.

> I would argue that BBC worldwide should simply be subject to the restrictions that are placed on other companies.

But it’s not just another company, is it? It’s the commercial arm of a public service broadcaster, and as such is basically protected to an extent that far exceeds any other company.

The BBC is for Public Service Broadcasting. I’m happy to see “public service” defined as widely as you like. But try and get it into other stuff, and you’re just handing the anti-BBC crows ammunition to shoot it down with.

crows = crowd
RougGuides = RoughGuides

gah.

6. Shatterface

‘Crows’ works fine for me, no correction necessary.

7. Chris Baldwin

I say nationalise the whole damn industry. Let us control it, not some no marks with money.

Frankly I would not be happy with the idea of a state controlled media.

If you are, you should consider that such a policy could end up giving David Cameron, and people he selects, control of the nations media outlets.

9. Charlieman

I think that john b and astem are being overly generous to the BBC. Purchase of Lonely Planet did not introduce anything new to the BBC (with respect to the talents at Lonely Planet) but primarily purchased a brand (hence the big money paid for it?). I acknowledge that BBC Worldwide is a trading company with an obligation to make a profit, and BBC Worldwide does a very good job at selling TV shows, web content, ideas etc outside the UK. But the job of BBC Worldwide is to sell BBC content, not to buy up independent producers.

In recent years the BBC has been unjustifiably criticised for “giving away” educational content (something that the BBC was doing before the internet existed). I would argue that the BBC’s educational content is core activity and that commercial competitors should do a better job, rather than forcing the BBC to remove educational web sites. Unfortunately, lead footed commercial intrusions make that argument more difficult.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    New post: The BBC and Lonely Planet: it will never happen again http://tinyurl.com/d5slbb

  2. DonaldS

    Why the BBC and Lonely Planet will never happen again, and why that’s right: http://bit.ly/xx9YZ

  3. James Penman

    Excellent post – RT @hackneye: Why the BBC and Lonely Planet will never happen again, and why that’s right: http://bit.ly/xx9YZ

  4. Travel Weekly Blog

    RT @hackneye: Why the BBC and Lonely Planet will never happen again, and why that’s right: http://bit.ly/xx9YZ

  5. Liberal Conspiracy

    New post: The BBC and Lonely Planet: it will never happen again http://tinyurl.com/d5slbb

  6. DonaldS

    Why the BBC and Lonely Planet will never happen again, and why that’s right: http://bit.ly/xx9YZ

  7. James Penman

    Excellent post – RT @hackneye: Why the BBC and Lonely Planet will never happen again, and why that’s right: http://bit.ly/xx9YZ





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.