LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s government will ask the BBC’s competitors to scrutinise the broadcaster’s remit and scale, the government said on Sunday, after years of controversy over how it has been funded.
The BBC [TBBC.UL], the world’s largest broadcaster, has long been criticised by government ministers and by its rivals for its dominance of British media.
Chancellor George Osborne said earlier this month it had become “imperial” in the scale of its online operations.
“You wouldn’t want the BBC to completely crowd out national newspapers, and if you look at the BBC website, it’s a good product but it’s becoming a bit imperial in its ambitions,” he said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
The BBC gets some income from allowing other broadcasters around the world to show its dramas, documentaries and lifestyle programmes. But its main funding comes from households paying a licence fee, enforced by a system to detect who is watching live television. Now many viewers watch online.
Culture Minister John Whittingdale said the eight-strong panel would contribute to the review of the BBC’s charter, which is due for renewal next year.
It includes Dawn Airey, an executive at Yahoo and the former CEO of Channel 5, Ashley Highfield, chief executive of local newspaper publisher Johnston Press JPR.L, and Alex Mahon, former chief executive of Shine, a TV production company owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty First Century Fox Fox.
“Each member of the independent advisory group brings individual skills, experience and expertise,” Whittingdale said.
A government spokeswoman also said a preliminary paper of proposals on the BBC would be published this week. She declined to say what it would contain.
The Sunday Times said it would herald the largest shake-up of the corporation for a generation, including replacing the universal 145.50 pound licence fee and the scrapping of the BBC Trust regulator.
Last week the government told the BBC, already facing a shortfall in licence revenue, to meet the 650 million pound cost of free licences for the over-75s.
In return, the government said it would be allowed to charge for its online iPlayer service.
The BBC’s Director General Tony Hall told the Observer newspaper that although he had secured a financial settlement, “we should be under no illusion that this is a period of high risk for the BBC.”
Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Ruth Pitchford