U.K. Government Mulls Move to Force BBC to Sell UKTV Stake (Report)

BBC Broadcasting House
Courtesy of Matt Cetti-Roberts/LNP/REX/Shutterstock

LONDON — The U.K. government is set to force state-owned broadcaster the BBC to sell its 50% stake in television network UKTV, according to government sources.

UKTV, which comprises 10 channels including Dave, Gold, Alibi and Really, is a joint venture between the BBC’s commercial division, BBC Worldwide, and U.S. company Scripps Networks Interactive. UKTV’s most recent financial results showed a 13% rise in revenue to £319 million ($452 million) and operating profits of £79.6 million ($113 million), which is 20% up over two years. Last year, Scripps was reported to have offered to buy the BBC’s stake for £500 million ($710 million).

The revelation, first reported in the Sunday Times, comes as the U.K. minister of culture John Whittingdale considers proposals for revising the rules governing how the BBC operates, known as the Royal Charter. He is expected to publish his proposals in a “White Paper” next month.

Another rumored proposal is that the government will force the BBC to hand over £100 million ($142 million) of its annual budget for local news and kids’ programming to other content providers.

A BBC spokesman said: “While the BBC has not seen any drafts of the White Paper, these proposals do not reflect the discussions we have had with government on its content.”