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British Broadcasting Corp.

took another step Wednesday in its attempt to reclaim the mother country's former colonies -- or at least buy a few U.S. magazines.

The British government-owned company, through its

BBC Worldwide Americas

unit, said it has formed a $100 million joint venture with media investment bank

Veronis Suhler

to build a major U.S. consumer media publishing company.

The deal represents the second prong of the BBC's U.S. invasion, said Peter Phippen, president and CEO of the Americas unit.

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The first step was taken in 1997, when the BBC completed a $600 million deal with

Discovery Communications

to form a global alliance. Under the terms of that agreement, the two companies will co-produce documentary programming.

Late last year, the BBC also said it was forming

GB Productions

, a joint U.S. production company with

Granada Media

that will produce U.S. television programming.

The joint venture with Veronis Suhler will target consumer magazines, an area in which the BBC holds a strong position in the U.K. The BBC's U.S. presence is considerably smaller, Phippen said. "This deal is about growing that presence significantly," he said. Among the different types of magazine the BBC has in mind are natural history and science books, which would complement the Discovery partnership, as well lifestyle and children's titles, Phippen said.

While talks with potential targets have been informal until now, Phippen said he expects things to heat up in the next several weeks. "Obviously,

Wednesday's announcement is also an invitation for others to talk with us."