Power of the BBC could be curbed, Government suggests
By Rowena Mason
In a new review launched by Maria Miller, the Media Secretary, the Coalition will look at whether some media organisations have too much power.
Ministers recommend that the “plurality” of the BBC is considered for the first time in a move that could potentially pave the way for its output to be reined in.
Currently, newspaper groups and broadcasters cannot hold more than 20 per cent of their respective markets but the BBC is not included in these rules.
The BBC spends around £430 million on news and current affairs a year, which is more than the remaining UK television and radio news broadcasters combined.
It broadcasts 73 per cent of television news hours and 46 per cent of all page views amongst the top 50 online news providers.
A consultation document published today acknowledges there are strong feelings for and against the idea of reviewing the BBC’s power over the news.
“On the one hand, it is considered that the BBC’s overriding requirement to be both independent and impartial, the fact that it is subject to extensive and detailed editorial and governance controls, and that it is tied to serving the public interest through its charter and through the high expectations of, and accountability to, licence payers mean that it should sit outside any new regulation,” the Department for Culture, Media and Sport says.
“On the other hand, it is pointed out that the BBC is not alone amongst news organisations in having a reputable brand, high audience expectations and detailed governance and editorial processes. There is also a body of research suggesting that broadcast impartiality is challenging despite strong governance arrangements.
“As a major player in the market, the BBC also has a significant impact on the overall range and scale of provision. This scale makes it important that the BBC is internally plural as well as impartial: the two are not synonymous.”
It asks the public and industry players: “Do you agree that the BBC’s impact on plurality should be assessed as part of a plurality review?”
Labour has already called for a cap of 15 per cent on ownership of newspapers, broadcasters and online news websites.
In his review of media ethics, Lord Justice Leveson suggested any review of media ownership would need to take into account the dominance of BBC news.
A spokesman for the BBC Trust, which governs the corporation, said any review should not lead to limits on the output of the BBC. Read more at The Telegraph.