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Singer contest in sponsorship blow; New BBC rules pose a threat.

Byline: Martin Shipton

THE future of a flagship music event has been placed in doubt by a change in BBC sponsorship rules.

The Cardiff Singer of the World contest, which is held every two years, was started by BBC Wales 26 years ago to commemorate the opening of St David's Hall in Cardiff.

Earlier this year London solicitor Ian Rosenblatt pulled out of sponsoring the linked Song Prize after he was told no reference to his business could appear on stage or on the BBC's website. The event went ahead without commercial sponsorship.

The change in BBC policy, which was confirmed on Tuesday, followed a ruling by the BBC Trust that the corporation breached editorial guidelines and "compromised" its editorial integrity over a Sports Personality of the Year sponsorship deal with Britvic.

Making the new policy statement, Richard Tait, BBC trustee and chair of the trust's editorial standards committee, said: "Sponsorship has a place at the BBC-it can bring important events into licence fee payers' lives - but producers need to have a very clear understanding about when and how such sponsorship may be accepted in support of the BBC's public purposes."

The new policy said non-commercial sponsorship of on-air events can continue.

Acceptable sponsors include char ities, trusts and foundations, local authorities and educational institutions. Such sponsorship will be limited to BBC award ceremonies, concerts, performance and cultural events and schemes which "encourage innovation, young talent, artistic endeavour, community initiatives and personal achievement". The guidance said: "Such events should be clearly distinctive and of manifest public value."

A music industry insider said: "Despite the BBC Trust's acceptance of non-commercial sponsorship, there is no guarantee that this will be forthcoming in the future. The contest's main sponsor is Cardiff council, but like all local authorities its budgets are coming under severe pressure. The BBC itself is up against it financially.

"As far as is known, there wasn't a single complaint about Ian Rosenblatt's sponsorship of the competition in Cardiff, so the decision to turn away his money seems like cutting off one's nose to spite one's face."

A BBC Wales spokesman said last night: " Earlier this week the BBC published new guidance which ruled out commercial sponsorship of on-air BBC events. However, the trust specifically referred to the need to protect 'well-loved events like BBC Cardiff Singer of the World' and has not ruled out sponsorship from non-commercial partners. Along with the BBC, Cardiff council has been the main supporter of the competition since its creation, and we look forward to working with them on future competitions."
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 18, 2009
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