Govt urged to shackle the BBC

Media owners issue joint demand for the Government to restrict the Corporation's digital activity.

A powerful group of media owners has called for greater restrictions on the BBC in response to the Government's White Paper.

The group comprises Associated Newspapers, the Commercial Radio Companies Association, The Newspaper Society, News International, and the Telegraph Group.

It has called for an independent BBC Trust to be created to oversee the Corporation. It also wants limits to be imposed on the BBC's digital remit and assurances the BBC's digital activity will not be subsidised by the licence fee.

The submission follows the Government's invitation for comments on its The BBC in the Digital Age White Paper and the draft BBC Charter. It expresses concern at the lack of "independent safeguards to stop (the BBC) abusing that position at the expense of the commercial operators".

Commercial companies are especially concerned that the BBC requires only one service licence for the whole of BBC online, enabling it to launch multiple online services under the banner without scrutiny.

Earlier this year, Mark Thompson, the director-general of the BBC, outlined plans to make the BBC's programme back catalogue available online.

The media owners' response is signed by Paul Dacre, the editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers; David Elstein, the chairman of the CRCA; Les Hinton, the executive chairman of News International; David Newell, the director of the NS, and Murdoch MacLennan, the chief executive of the Telegraph Group.

Separately, the BBC has invited agencies to tender for its £20 million creative roster. The current roster includes Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, DFGW and Fallon. Agencies must register an interest online at by 12 June. Pitches will be held in October and contracts commence in January 2007.

- Comment, page 40.