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BBC Worldwide in trouble over children's TV merchandising

LONDON - BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, is to use aggressive marketing techniques to try to tempt children between seven and 12 to buy merchandise related to a new BBC1 series called 'Ace Lightning'.

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An internal BBC memo leaked to the press over the weekend describes how the BBC will promote the show, which is being billed as this year's biggest children's offering, to try to boost sales of show-related merchandise such as clothes, games and mobile phones.

The document, written by BBC Worldwide global brand manager Oliver West, says that the pocket money of children aged between seven and 12 is being targeted.

In the memo, West says that the BBC should aim to "drive eyeballs to the show and then sell items associated with it to children between the ages of seven and 12", according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph.

The memo goes on to suggest that BBC Worldwide should try to "influence the BBC to drive awareness of the products it is creating and achieve a strong week-day schedule". It suggests that 'Ace Lightning' should get a Saturday morning slot, a popular viewing time among the young.

The memo contravenes BBC Worldwide's remit, which is to generate money from the sale of items related to BBC programmes while not interfering with programme scheduling. Scheduling falls under the remit of the licence-fee funded part of the broadcaster.

The leaking of the memo will place the BBC in more trouble with the government and the commercial sector, which is currently opposing the BBC's plans to launch a digital youth entertainment channel BBC3.

The BBC and commercial broadcasters are currently at loggerheads over the amount of revenues BBC3 will take from its commercial rivals such as E4 and Sky One. The BBC believes it will cost the commercial sector around £5m a year, rivals believe it will cost them nearer £25m.

The discrepancy prompted Tessa Jowell, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, to further delay the launch of BBC3 by telling the BBC to work with the Independent Television Commission, which represents commercial broadcasters, in order to reach a figure they were in agreement with.

The memo also closely follows comments by BBC chairman Gavyn Davies who told the Telegraph on Saturday that he was concerned about the amount of advertising on children's TV.

Davies said he sets a quota of programmes his children can watch and also fears the impact on them of violent video games.

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