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UK govt in favour of BBC Worldwide sale

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MUMBAI: The fate of BBC Worldwide hangs in the balance. While the Beeb is said to have decided against selling its commercial arm reports indicate that the British government is pressuring it to do so.

That is because the Blair government wants the BBC to partially finance the transition from analogue to a fully digitised Britain. It does not want the BBC to take the license fee route to foot the bill.

However the government added that the BBC was independent and it would not interfere in its decisions. The full cost of switching from analogue to digital is likely to run into hundreds of millions of pounds, according to internal estimates at the BBC.

A report in This Is London added that this would include upgrading transmission masts and a nationwide advertising campaign to inform consumers of the changes.

While the corporation will not shoulder the entire costs, which will be met by a consortium of broadcasters, transmission companies and retailers, its bill is likely to be considerable.

Another report in The Independent stated that instead of selling its commercial arm the BBC will look to double profits at BBC Worldwide. The situation was very different in September when the Beeb had invited bids from Time Warner, Disney and Germany's Bertelsmann.

The Government wants the BBC to pay its share from selling BBC Worldwide rather than from licence fee income. The future of BBC Worldwide is currently under review. The government is keen that the British public not pay BBC's bill through the licence fee.

Last year BBC Worldwide made a profit of £37 million on sales of £657 million. BBC Worldwide is not the only commercial arm of the BBC under scrutiny. The future of BBC Resources, the production facilities service, and BBC Broadcast, are also being considered as part of the commercial review that coincides with the review of the BBC's next five-year charter starting in 2007.

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