BBC continues global roll-out of Lonely Planet Magazine

LONDON - BBC Magazines has brokered five new international licensing deals for its controversial venture Lonely Planet Magazine, meaning that by the end of its first financial year there will be six international editions of the monthly publication in circulation.

BBC continues global roll-out of Lonely Planet Magazine
BBC continues global roll-out of Lonely Planet Magazine

The initial launch of the magazine in the UK in November 2008 attracted criticism from rival  publishers who claimed the corporation was breaking its own fair trading rules.

The publisher proceeded to launch the title in Brazil in June and has today unveiled plans to launch with partners in France (with Paprbox), Argentina (Milke SA), the Philippines (Bella Luce Publications), Singapore -Pan Asian (Regent Media) and India (Worldwide Media) by January.

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, acquired its 75% stake in the Lonely Planet brand for £89m at the end of 2007.

Rival publishers condemned the move for being too commercially orientated, with no direct connection with BBC programming or original content.

Last month, the BBC Trust unveiled a series of changes to the future commercial remit for BBC Worldwide following an 18-month review process that affectively rules out any such deals in the future, unless "there are exceptional circumstances".

A clearer focus has now been placed on securing value from the BBC's own intellectual property in addition to calls for an exit from any activity that is "not in keeping with the BBC brand".

The announcement by the BBC regulator suggested the corporation's current extensions outside of its own brands, including its Lonely Planet activities and other non-programme-based magazine brands, could be put up for sale in the future.

"...the Trust would not expect to consider a commercial deal of the scale and nature of the Lonely Planet acquisition in future,"  said Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust.

"The Trust will want to ensure that BBC Worldwide's plans for Lonely Planet secure the best value for licence fee payers and will keep its long-term future under review."

The decision was welcomed by Tony Elliott, founder and chairman of rival travel guide publisher Time Out. Talking to Media Week, he said the main reason the Lonely Planet brand was not being sold now was because it would produce a "whopping loss, resulting in a big embarrassment all round".

"It has been an anti-competitive disaster from the beginning," he said.

Meanwhile, the Lonely Planet Magazine in the UK celebrated its first anniversary last month by winning three industry awards: editor Peter Grunert won BSME New Consumer Editor of the Year; was highly commended in the New Editor of the Year at the Periodical Training Council Awards; and the magazine won Consumer Travel Publication of the Year at the Travel Press Awards.
 
James Hewes, head of international development at BBC Magazines said: "We are delighted to have had such a great response to Lonely Planet Magazine from international partners around the world.

"We have secured six international licences in the magazine’s first year – and we would love to hear from other publishers who are interested in the title."

The magazine is aimed at frequent travellers and features a mix of editorial and photography, with a particular focus on ideas for future trips, both short breaks and long-haul journeys.

From the outset, BBC Magazines called the Lonely Planet title "more than a travel magazine", with ambitions to encompass culture, history and food as well.

A BBC spokesman insisted: "Much of the content in the title does link back to BBC programmes and websites.

"It [the international launches] is about extending our remit overseas and generating the most returns we can for the taxpayer."

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