BBC told to sell off Radio 1 and 2 to rebalance market

LONDON - The BBC should sell off Radio 1 and 2 because their public service role is 'minimal' and they compete unfairly with commercial radio stations, according to a study on the future of UK broadcasting.

The report has been published by the European Media Forum as part of ongoing coverage of regulatory affairs, and authored by economist Keith Boyfield.

It casts a critical eye over the reforms outlined in the recent government white paper on the renewal of the BBC's Royal Charter, which last week came under attack from the Commercial Radio Companies Association and a number of national newspaper groups.

The study claims that the white paper should have considered the sale of Radio 1 and 2, and some of all of the BBC's local stations.

"If both Radio 1 and 2 were sold in a combined sale the proceeds might arguably total £500m or more. Such an initiative would rebalance the radio market and level the competitive playing field between commercial broadcasters," it claims.

Claims are made that the lack of regulatory constraint on the BBC has allowed it to engage in "questionable competition" with the commercial radio sector by moving the output of Radio 1 and 2 away from public service content.

Under the White Paper reforms, a new BBC governing body, the proposed BBC Trust, wil have to draw up a licence for every service the corporation supplies, and any changes to the service would have to be approved by a working party from the BBC Trust and Ofcom.

The study claims the scrutiny should be stricter and take account of the impact on other broadcasters of BBC services as they are now. It says this would identify Radio 1 and 2's current output as being essentially at odds with the BBC's public service mission.

"Rather than rely on the new procedures outlined in the recent white paper with regard to market impact assessments and the granting of service licences by the BBC Trust to constrain the ability of Radios 1 and 2 to radically alter their content offering, we believe it would be better to privatise both stations as soon as possible," the report said.

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