Caroline Thomson: BBC quality won't be sold out for cash

'To inform, educate, entertain - and make a profit' is not the new mantra

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Stories in this newspaper in the past few days have suggested that the BBC is embarking on a new strategy in which we are asking programme-makers to "commercialise" some of our news and current-affairs programming with a view to making money.

It has been said that staff are being asked to exploit commercial opportunities at the expense of focusing on the programmes themselves. Questions are being raised about whether profit is being put before programme integrity. Surely, the critics say, that's not what the BBC and its staff are there to do? The answer to this is, of course, an emphatic no. The BBC exists, as it always has, to make programmes that audiences love – "to inform, educate, entertain and make a profit" is certainly not the new mantra for our programme-makers.

But it has long been the case in UK public service programme-making that we have benefited from revenue generated by the commercial sale of CDs, DVDs, books and other activity linked to programmes – revenue that has helped to supplement programme budgets.

The History Of The World in 100 Objects books and CBeebies Live events are just two examples of activities that have delivered profits to the BBC that have, in turn, gone back into programme budgets. These are the kinds of ideas we look for – ideas that complement not compromise or change the shape of our programmes.

BBC News, whether it's domestic TV, radio or online, is, of course, funded by the licence fee, and is not subject to any commercial pressures. It's a different story with BBC World News, the channel broadcast outside the UK, which is a commercial operation funded through advertising and distribution deals. And it is in this commercial area where we can always use as many good ideas as possible to help generate additional income.

It is also worth saying that any ideas we do come up with have to undergo the intense scrutiny of our editorial guidelines and the sharp eye of the BBC Trust, whose role, in part, is to ensure that the BBC is not compromising its position. Editorial integrity remains, as it always has, the unassailable core of what we do. I am also happy to reassure NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet that we would never consider introducing profit targets for programme-makers across the BBC.

So, yes, we will always seek to find appropriate ways in which we can raise commercial revenue that will support licence fee funding for our programmes but never at the expense of the core programme values. I am afraid we're unlikely to see a range of Paxman dolls any time soon.

Caroline Thomson is the Chief Operating Officer of the BBC

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