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BBC Worldwide mulls 'Radio Times' sale

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The BBC is reportedly reviewing options for the sale of Radio Times as part of a planned shake-up at its BBC Worldwide commercial division.

Worldwide is currently seeking a partnership deal with a rival publisher to enable its "portfolio of profitable market-leading titles to meet its potential, while still protecting the BBC's editorial standards and brands".

The BBC Magazines division, which includes Top Gear, Gardener's World and Doctor Who titles, reported an £11.5 million profit last year on sales of £182m. The unit sells around 85m magazines each year.

Worldwide believes that a commercial partnership agreement would result in a "mixed portfolio" of BBC titles, with some being sold and others licensed.

In a statement issued yesterday, a Worldwide spokesman said: "We confirmed to BBC Worldwide staff on Friday [April 9] that following a review of our magazines business we are seeking a partnership with another company to enable our portfolio of profitable market-leading titles to meet its potential, while still protecting the BBC's editorial standards and brands.

"BBC Magazines hopes to hold preliminary conversations with interested companies in the coming weeks. But we will only proceed if we can find an appropriate partner who understands the BBC's values and brands, and if we are able to structure a deal that works for both parties and delivers value back to the BBC."

Speaking to The Times, an industry source claimed that a commercial partnership deal will not be straightforward as most of the BBC's magazines are closely linked to its programming brands.

"It can't just be about flogging off the company because a lot of the magazines are BBC-branded and programme-branded and a huge part of their value is their relationship with the BBC," said the source.

"It's not straightforward and it's not going to be the same structure for all of them. There are some titles that could be sold, some parts need to remain close to the BBC."

Following the deal, it is thought that Top Gear magazine would be licensed to another publisher, while listings title Radio Times would be sold.

A shake-up at BBC Magazines first surfaced in the BBC's strategy review, which stated that Worldwide should focus more on its international operations and "move away from physical media".

However, any proposed partnership deal would first have to be approved by the BBC Trust before it can go into operation.

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