Media groups seek limits on BBC's expanding 'digital empire'

Three national newspaper groups and the Commercial Radio Companies Association have
joined the Newspaper Society in its campaign to restrict the BBC’s inroads into
the digital media.

In
a joint submission on the government’s BBC charter review White Paper,
News International executive chairman Les Hinton, Associated Newspapers
editor-in-chief Paul Dacre, Telegraph Group chief executive Murdoch
MacLennan, CRCA chairman David Elstein and Newspaper Society director
David Newell said the BBC licence
fee should not be used to pay for the corporation’s aim of “
building digital Britain”.

They
suggested the fee should either be held below the inflation rate or that the
BBC’s
new
digital ventures
should be purely commercial to make competition more fair for commercial
media groups.

The statement raised concerns over the degree to which the Government is giving the BBC "a
public policy directive to build a digital empire" and that there was a
“lack of any truly independent safeguards to
stop them abusing that position at the expense of the commercial operators”.

Other media organisations at present have no right of review or
appeal against decisions made by the BBC Trust,
which was set up to
monitor the public value tests but
was described in the BBC
Charter as “part of the BBC”.

The
submission argues that “the Government is handing the BBC a unfair
advantage in the digital revolution that is changing the face of the
media" by giving the corporation the public purpose of "building
digital Britain" and acting as the public's "trusted guide". This, the
submission says, is "a prime
public policy task that should not be the preserve of any media
organisation".

The consultation for the future of the BBC was launched at the end of
2003 and the Green Paper launched in March 2005.

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