Newspaper chiefs claim BBC is 'out of control'

The BBC Trust‘s role as an impartial regulator has been called into question by the bosses of two of Britain’s biggest newspaper publishers.

Guardian Media Group chief executive Carolyn McCall and Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey told MPs they were concerned by the Trust’s handling of its investigation into the BBC’s local video proposals.

It follows news yesterday that the Newspaper Society has sent a legal letter to the Trust claiming that its handling of the public value test inquiry into local video is breaking the law.

‘The Trust has made it clear to management that it’s a strategic imperative to enter local,’McCall told the culture, media and sport select committee in London today.

‘When we then engage with the Trust and say we have a real problem with local video, who are we talking to – the regulator or someone championing the BBC? A regulator should be unambiguously a regulator.”

The BBC is looking to spend £68m on setting up 65 local video news websites across the UK, providing up to 10 video reports a day and employing 300 journalists.

‘We spent half a million to do an entertainment website in the north west,’McCall added. ‘£68m is a lot of money.”

Sly Bailey said the BBC’s video plans would dwarve the regional press’s online video offering – and said she feared the service would continue to grow.

She told the committee: ‘The management are out of control and the Trust are not in control. It just isn’t working. The process that they’re going through is fundamentally flawed.

‘We carry five videos on our sites in a day. The BBC will immediately come in with something that dwarves that.

‘We’re absolutely inundated with competition online. In a multimedia world, the BBC can roar around doing what it wants to.”

The Newspaper Society’s head of political, editorial and regulatory affairs, Santha Rasiah said BBC Local was ‘competing head-to-head with the services already offered’by the regional press.

‘It’s not offering anything new,’she said. ‘Local and regional newspapers are already developing services.”

The BBC Trust is due to publish its initial findings later this month.

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