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BBC’s fair trading practices get seal of approval

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The BBC’s commitment to fair trading was given a seal of approval by two different independent reviews today.

Professor Richard Whish, a renowned expert on competition law, has reviewed the BBC’s Fair Trading Commitment and guidelines and concluded they are appropriate to ensure that the BBC does not distort competition in commercial markets. At the same time, the British Standards Institute has awarded its prestigious ISO 9001:2000 standard to the BBC for its fair trading practices. The BBC becomes the first organisation to achieve the standard.

Professor Whish wrote: "In my view, the fair trading policies of the BBC compare favourably with those of other undertakings. Indeed, I am not aware of any organisation that is subject to as much scrutiny - internally and externally - to ensure compliance with Competition Law."

BBC Director of Public Policy Caroline Thomson said: "This is excellent news, because it means that both our Fair Trading Commitment and the way that we carry it out have been examined by independent experts and shown to be thorough and effective - in fact, some of the best in the public or private sectors. Despite the frequent criticisms of the BBC from some of our commercial competitors, our policies and practices have been fully endorsed by Professor Whish and the BSI respectively."

In December, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Chris Smith and the BBC Governors together asked Richard Whish, Professor of Law at King’s College London, to conduct a review of the BBC’s fair trading policies in accordance with the recommendation of the Gavyn Davies Panel on The Future Funding of the BBC in August 1999.

Professor Whish’s report was published today (see base of this page). He concluded: "I am satisfied that the Fair Trading Commitment and the Guidelines are appropriate to ensure that the BBC does not distort competition in commercial markets." He did not make any recommendations for change.

Writing to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, BBC Chairman of Governors Sir Christopher Bland said: "We are pleased that he was satisfied that the processes through which the Governors are made aware of fair trading issues, and the nature of the information provided to us, are sufficient to keep abreast of relevant fair trading issues and report accurately in the Annual Report and Accounts.

"Although Professor Whish acknowledges that the Guidelines are written in a clear and comprehensive style, we are grateful for his suggested amendments and clarifications on the existing text." The BBC will take them into account when the guidelines are next revised.

Taken with the favourable report from Pannell Kerr Foster Review of the Transparency of the BBC’s Financial Reporting last October, today’s announcements are welcome acknowledgement of the soundness of the BBC’s fair trading policies and practices. The remaining recommendation of the Davies Panel on this issue was for a regular independent external audit of fair trading. The first report by Ernst &Young will be published as part of the Annual Report process.

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