Ultra-local news could 'over extend' BBC says Cameron

Opposition leader David Cameron has warned that the BBC is
in danger of “over extending itself” with its plans for ultra local news
services.

Speaking at the Newspaper Society’s annual lunch, before an
audience made up of senior executives from the regional press, the Conservative
leader was asked his view of the BBC’s ambitions by Tim Bowdler, chief
executive of Johnston Press.

Bowdler likened the BBC to a “big gorilla in our midst”
whose actions threatened regional publisher’s investment in digital media.

Cameron said: “I do think
there is a problem with the BBC
over extending itself. We’ve all seen in our own constituencies small
internet
businesses involved in education or information provision working away
to create a market, making some money, and then the BBC comes along and
squish, like a big foot on an ant, the
business goes down.

And so we need to look at ways of making sure that the BBC
doesn’t over extend itself."

What I would like to see is, a better set of rules to stop
the BBC from charging in and not charging, as it were, to put other people who are struggling to create a market, out of work.”

Cameron extended his argument to take a dig at The Londoner,
a free newspaper produced for Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Authority, funded
by the capital’s taxpayers. The GLA and the mayor, he said, were “trying to be
too many things and get into a publishing business that they should not be in.”

He also had some words of comfort for the
newspaper industry.
Asked by Archant chief executive John Fry whether there was any danger
of a Conservative government abolishing the zero VAT rating on
newspapers, he said:
“While not making any pledges in advance of an election or a budget, I
think
you can sleep easily in your beds.”


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