Could Woman's Hour be the next Top Gear for BBC?
THE BBC is aiming to exploit the popularity of Radio 4's Woman's Hour making it into a money-spinner like Top Gear.
Alice Feinstein, the editor of the programme, is said to have told staff she is aiming to develop commercial projects linked to the show, which was introduced to the BBC in 1946 and has an audience of 3.5 million people.
She has asked its producers to submit their own moneymaking ideas, claims the Independent.
Woman's Hour is hoping to develop the commercial value of its brand around key areas including female entrepreneurialism, cookery and literature in order to sell tickets for roadshow events, books and DVDs.
Promising areas are said to include the show's "Cook The Perfect" feature, which offers culinary insights from leading chefs and celebrities such as Yotam Ottolenghi, Claudia Roden, Sophie Dahl and Mary McCartney.
The development follows an email sent to all 2,400 staff in the BBC Global News department telling them exploitation of "commercial opportunities" will be part of their job.
The instructions to "strengthen our commercial focus and grow income" have angered journalists and are part of the increasing commercialisation of the BBC.
The BBC has successfully exploited brands such as Doctor Who and Top Gear to supplement its income, but products connected to Radio 4 are largely confined to its comedy and drama output, notably The Archers.
The commercialisation of editorial is controversial and some producers are said to be unhappy that they are being asked to come up with money making spin offs.
Michelle Stanistreet, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said: "It seems there are quiet attempts to introduce profit targets across the BBC.
"This is something that the unions and indeed the public have not been asked about.
"The pursuit of profit should not influence editorial decisions in our public service broadcaster. Woman's Hour is a fine example of quality journalism and should not be compromised by commercial imperatives."
Ms Feinstein is believed to have been encouraged to take a more commercial approach to running the programme by Tim Davie, the BBC's director of Audio & Music, who is among the candidates to become the next director general of the BBC.
She took up the job when long-standing editor Jill Burridge stepped down in December.
She told producers she would divide her efforts between the radio programme, the Woman's Hour website and digital products, and developing commercial schemes linked to the show.
A Radio 4 spokesman said Ms Feinstein's priority remained the editorial content of Woman's Hour.
"Editorial and programme making is the most important aspect of her job," he said.
"Commercial considerations play no part in decisions to commission programmes, nor do they influence the choice of items on programmes such as Woman's Hour."