BBC bans commercial sponsorship of on-air events

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Commercial sponsorship of the BBC's on-air events was formally banned in a new policy published today.

The BBC Trust found last year that the corporation breached editorial guidelines and "compromised" its editorial integrity over a Sports Personality of the Year sponsorship deal with Britvic.

The BBC executive announced last July that it would take no further commercial sponsorship.

This was confirmed today in a revised sponsorship policy for BBC on-air events, published after a public consultation by the Trust.

The BBC will not renew contracts for sponsorship of on-air events by commercial bodies, though existing contracts will be honoured, subject to guidance.

The new policy said that non-commercial sponsorship of on-air events can continue, provided it is in line with the new guidance.

Acceptable sponsors include charities, trusts and foundations, local authorities and educational institutions.

Such sponsorship will be limited to BBC award ceremonies, concerts, performance and cultural events and schemes which "encourage innovation, young talent, artistic endeavour, community initiatives and personal achievement".

The guidance said: "Such events should be clearly distinctive and of manifest public value."

Off-air BBC events can be commercially sponsored, but are subject to the BBC's editorial guidelines.

Non-BBC events, such as sporting fixtures which are sponsored by third parties, can be covered on air by the BBC, in accordance with guidelines.

Richard Tait, BBC Trustee and chair of the Trust's Editorial Standards Committee, said: "Sponsorship has a place at the BBC - it can bring important events into licence fee payers' lives - but producers need to have a very clear understanding about when and how such sponsorship may be accepted in support of the BBC's public purposes. That's what we have set out today.

"In particular, we have tried to strike a balance between furthering the public purposes, minimising the impact on the commercial sector and protecting established and well-loved events like Cardiff Singer of the World."

The Trust asked the BBC executive to revise the guidance following complaints about the broadcast of Sports Personality of the Year in December 2007.

A new policy was put out for consultation in February this year and the changes will be reflected immediately.

The Trust's report last July found that the Sports Personality of the Year sponsorship deal with Britvic had given the impression that part of a BBC service had been sponsored.

While the BBC has been allowed to accept sponsorship finance for BBC events, programmes themselves may not be sponsored.

The new rules state that sponsorship of an on-air event must not give the impression that a BBC programme or service has been sponsored.