Sometimes real life situations which genuinely impact people offer the easiest and best way to demonstrate important legal issues which can otherwise seem remote or dry. Let’s face it, people care about Bake Off!
It looks as though Channel 4 are in a pickle – a vital ingredient in the show, the rights to which they have recently bought for many millions, is now missing. As readers will no doubt know, 3 of the 4 presenters have now decided to leave. This means the chances of the show continuing to be the roaring success it has been, generating multi-millions in revenue, must be in serious doubt.
What’s this got to do with law you may ask?
The situation described above is very common in the context of buying a business of any kind. Whether a business sells goods or services, the current owners and/or senior employees are normally intrinsically linked with it’s historical success and value. If those people leave the business when it is sold, this often creates difficulty at best for the buyer. Consequently, in most business purchase negotiations an essential requirement for the buyer is to be able to lock in and retain key people for at least a period post purchase.
The above was not exactly the position with the Bake Off situation. Mary Berry and the other departing presenters were not the owners of the Bake Off programme and nor were the BBC. This would have possibly left Channel 4 in a predicament. Whether Mary Berry was an employee or a consultant for BBC, Channel 4 may have faced legal problems if they approached her before concluding the deal to buy the rights with the 3rd party owners. It is possible also that the negotiations between Channel 4 and the owners of the show rights were very secretive so as to try and steal a march on the BBC. This seems unlikely though as most commentators seem to believe the BBC may have had first refusal or at least were negotiating for a year before the rights ended (see Telegraph article linked below on this).
What is clear is that Channel 4 may have a problem which could prove very costly – you might say that they are missing the yeast which is essential to guarantee that their dough rises! It is also possible that they always intended to have different presenters, but the wisdom of generations of bakers suggests that changing a winning recipe is rarely a good idea.
This also possibly of interest – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/12/bbc-loses-great-british-bake-off/
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