BBC will not be forced to sell its £500m stake in UKTV, White Paper expected to reveal

Exclusive: Corporation will breathe a sigh of relief as RadioTimes.com understands that John Whittingdale will not make it sell its commercial interest in the lucrative business

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The BBC will not be forced to sell its lucrative stake in UKTV, the portfolio of commercial channels that earns it around £80m a year.

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RadioTimes.com understands that culture secretary John Whittingdale has not included the measure in his White Paper on the BBC which is due to be published tomorrow.

It had been speculated that the Government was considering forcing the BBC to sell off its 50% stake in UKTV which owns 10 channels including Dave and Gold as well as catch-up service UKTV Play and is valued at about £500m.

The BBC has always opposed selling its stake in the business to US pay-TV broadcaster Scripps which owns the other half of the venture and has reportedly long had its eye on the asset.

UKTV provides the BBC’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide with around one third of its profits, valued at around £230m annually. BBC Worldwide’s profits are ploughed back into the BBC.

The Corporation has promised to provide £1bn over the next five years from its commercial operations.

The BBC, UKTV and DCMS did not comment on the claim which follows a Forbes report that the Government had gone cold on the idea.

Tomorrow’s White Paper will prove crucial for the BBC as the Government is expected to impose restrictions on the its scheduling powers and autonomy and to force the Corporation to make details of its pay to on-screen talent public.

The BBC is also extremely anxious about the possible imposition of top-slicing of its £3.7bn licence fee revenue, forcing it to share some of the cash with other providers. Children’s TV producers are expected to be the beneficiaries of this measure.

John Whittingdale is expected to announce the terms of the White Paper in the House of Commons tomorrow.

The White Paper is the final proposal put forward by the Government. It is not a Bill as such, in that there isn’t a statutory need for Parliament to approve it in exactly the way it does legislation. The convention is for both Houses to debate the Charter prior to an approval motion in the Commons.

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Details of the White Paper will set out the terms of the BBC’s Royal Charter for the next ten years – what it can and must do and how it should do it.