BBC World faces losses of pounds 15m

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THE BBC was forced to admit multi-million pound losses for one of its commercial ventures yesterday, but insisted no public money was in jeopardy.

Losses at BBC World - the 24-hour news channel - in the year to the end of March were expected to be in the region of pounds 15m, the corporation said.

The announcement came as a consortium of commercial stations joined in an unusual alliance to fight BBC plans to bring in an extra licence fee for digital channel users.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Culture, Chris Smith, chief executives from eight commercial groups, including Granada, Carlton, Channel 4, BSkyB and ONdigital, said they had "serious concerns" about the "wider implications" of such a move. Commercial stations have repeatedly attacked the BBC for using licence-funded money to subsidise its commercial ventures, which the corporation has denied.

The BBC published new guidelines yesterday which said there must be "clear separation between publicly funded and commercial activities" with "no public funds to be used or put at risk by commercial activities" which include worldwide programme sales, digital channels and publishing.

A BBC spokesman said: "There has never been any cross-subsidising but the guidelines have been tightened to avoid any potential misunderstandings."