Chief plans BBC upgrade

Seeks to mirror private sector management practices

LONDON — BBC chair Michael Grade plans to set up a board to make sure the pubcaster’s commercial activities are run more professionally.

Addressing a group of London media reporters Wednesday, for the first time since his surprise appointment as BBC chairman in May, he said the idea was to mirror management practices in the commercial sector and bring a professional edge to the Beeb’s commercial divisions.

“We need to turn these excellent businesses into a properly governed business and run them in the way that all businesses are run — with individual annual reports, non-executive directors and a non-executive chairman who will report to the BBC’s board of governors,” Grade said.

Grade is determined to reform the way the BBC is managed after widespread criticism that its practices are out of date and fail to hold the organization to account.

The pubcaster’s commercial interests include BBC Worldwide, which runs a portfolio of global webs including BBC America, and BBC Resources, the studio business that may be sold off as part of cost-cutting efforts announced last month by director-general Mark Thompson.

Rivals have castigated the BBC for expanding into areas in which private outfits were running successful businesses; the launch of two BBC digital children’s channels infuriated the likes of Nickelodeon.

But Grade, who denied he is seeking to take power away from the pubcaster’s executives, insisted that, in the future, no new service would be launched before passing a public value test.

This would be rigorously applied by the governors to assess what impact any additional activities might have on commercial outfits.