Politicians urge BBC Worldwide sale

Report suggests tax breaks for kids' programs

LONDON — The pressure on the BBC to sell off part of commercial arm BBC Worldwide has moved up another notch as an influential report called for Worldwide’s part-privatization.

A 102-page report on the British film and TV sectors published by the U.K.’s House of Lords, parliament’s upper house whose job it is to rubber-stamp all British legislation, said the corp. should consider a partial sell-off.

“We believe that such a company, with a continuing link to the BBC, would be capable of becoming a major global brand for distributing U.K. content, producing additional profits, employment and opportunities for British production companies,” said the report, the British Film and Television Industries — Decline or Opportunity?

It added: “At a time where there is substantial public concern about British companies being taken over from abroad there is the opportunity to establish a British-owned global brand…

“It cannot be achieved by using the (BBC) license fee. A company with private investment but retaining a BBC shareholding could achieve both bigger profits and also major proceeds from the sale.”

Recently, it emerged that the U.K. government put BBC Worldwide on a list of public assets it is considering selling and there have been reports that BBC toppers have held preliminary talks regarding a partial sale.

The House of Lords report also recommended that existing 18% U.K. tax relief for films should be improved for low-budget productions and extended to cover children’s TV shows due to the declining amount of investment in tyke fare.

The report estimated that spending on children’s programming in Blighty had fallen by 48% since 2003.

On the thorny issue of film piracy, the House of Lords report supported new laws to make it a criminal offence to use a camcorder in cinemas.

It said: “One of the greatest concerns put to us was the issue of piracy — part of which is dealt with in the Digital Economy Bill now before the Lords.

“The glaring omission is camcorder crime when new films are recorded at the cinema by camcorder, and then sold as DVDs.

“There is no legitimate issue of freedom here. It is theft that ultimately does great damage to the industry and those working in it.

“We believe that we should follow the example of most other countries in Europe and make it a criminal offence.”

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