The European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term lending institution, is providing BBC Worldwide with a EUR 40 million (£ 25 million) loan facility.

BBC Worldwide Ltd, the BBC's main commercial arm, exists to maximise the value of the BBC's programme and publishing assets for the benefit of the licence payer, and re-invest in public service programming. The loan will provide capital to enable BBC Worldwide to expand its investment programme. BBC Worldwide, which trades with the BBC on an arms length basis, was set up in 1994 to develop further the BBC's commercial activities.

BBC Worldwide invests in programmes and products across all genres, including documentaries, natural history, news education and entertainment - as well as children's productions and music. The investment by the Bank supports the European audiovisual sector, reinforces its international competitiveness and helps it to meet the cultural and technological challenges of the globalised economy.

EIB Vice-President Peter Sedgwick said: "Public service broadcasting like that of the BBC, plays an important role in providing high-quality programme production. The project will sustain the international competitiveness of European audiovisual production and will also enhance demand for independent producers as they will be largely in charge of programme production."

The European Investment Bank finances capital investment furthering EU integration, in particular: regional development, trans-European networks in transport, telecoms and energy, industrial competitiveness and integration, small and medium sized enterprises, environmental protection, energy security, and health and education projects. It also operates outside the EU within the framework of the EU's co-operation external policy. Owned by the EU Member States, the EIB raises its funds on capital markets (AAA issuer). In 2001, the EIB lent some EUR 37 billion, of which EUR 2.3 billion in the UK.

"i2i" covers: education, including e-Learning; R&D; diffusion of innovation; ICT/information and communication technology; SMEs/entrepreneurship (mainly venture capital). The audiovisual sector, and more generally content industries, has been included in the diffusion area (with a definition of an "i2i-audiovisual" programme in cooperation with the Commission). Under its "i2i" initiative, the Bank foresees lending EUR 12-15 billion over three years; and has so far committed over EUR 8 billion.

Examples of audiovisual lending include: new production facilities and equipment for TV broadcasters (Retevision, Denmark radio/TV), SFF-type risk sharing operations to support small audio-visual and multi-media productions in France (Coficiné and Cofiloisir operations), or a dedicated global loan (line of credit) for the content industry mainly in Italy (with BNL).