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Beeb record label cues controversy

Conservatives to review practices of pubcaster

LONDON — The BBC came under fire Thursday for launching its own diskery, Inversion Records.

Commercial rivals fear the Blighty pubcaster’s recording artists will get preferential airplay on its radio and TV stations, driving sales and performance royalties.

Marketing crossover acts, Inversion will be managed by BBC Worldwide, the Beeb’s commercial arm, which plows profits back into program making.

Miller time

The label’s first release next week will be “First Touch,” a disc from acoustic guitarist Dominic Miller. The album features guest artists Sting and Placido Domingo.

In the past, BBC Worldwide has had spinoff singles from hit shows it commissioned such as “Bob the Builder” and “The Tweenies,” but now the company will sign acts with commercial potential.

The opposition Conservative party’s culture secretary, John Whittingdale, has condemned the recording venture as “empire-building gone mad” and warned of serious consequences if the BBC’s records were given privileged access to airwaves. The Conservatives have launched their own review of Beeb practices.

No advantage

“Dominic Miller will get on BBC programs only if producers believe he is right for that program,” said BBC head of music marketing Allan Taylor. “He will not get special treatment.”

The BBC has substantial interests in feature film, digital TV, magazines, DVDs and the Internet. Last year, BBC Worldwide sales were worth £660 million ($1.1 billion), with 100 million consumer magazine sales, 16 million books and a DVD sales increase of 382%.

Worldwide returned $175 million to the BBC’s program budget.

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