After sustained criticism of the BBC’s commercial activities by rivals, moves are now taking place to control the corporation’s money-spinning activities across a range of business sectors. One area set to be curtailed is sponsorship – with the BBC Trust this week introduced tough new guidelines on what is acceptable. As a result, a wide range of activities will now be thrown out by the corporation.
The big change is that sponsorship of BBC activities will now be required to further the BBC’s public purposes and should not give the impression that a BBC programme has been sponsored. So it is highly unlikely that Robinson’s overt partnership with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year would fit within the new regime. There would also be question marks over the kind of set-up which saw Proms in the Park sponsored by National Savings & Investments.
Sponsorship is still regarded as important – as long as it passes the tough new tests. For example, there is room for commercial brands to sponsor off-air events (ie those which don’t get high-profile TV or radio mentions). As for on-air events, sponsors will primarily be drawn from organisations such as charities, trusts, foundations and local authorities.
The new rules take effect immediately, with the BBC deciding not to sign or renew any commercial sponsorships. Commenting, Richard Tait, chair of the Trust’s editorial standards committee, said: “Sponsorship can bring important events into licence fee payers’ lives – but producers need a clear understanding about when and how such sponsorship may be accepted in support of the BBC’s public purposes. That’s what we have set out today.”