Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Open up competition says ex-BBC man

Former BBC news chief Roger Mosey has said there should be a debate about how the next licence fee deal 'helps pluralism and diversity'

A former BBC news chief has proposed that the corporation should get a smaller slice of the licence fee to promote competition and give the public wider choice.

Roger Mosey, who was head of BBC Television News, said there should be a debate about how the next licence fee settlement "helps pluralism and diversity".

Writing in The Times, Mr Mosey said that if more bids from commercial organisations were open to funding from the licence fee it might "enrich the nation".

Mr Mosey said that while the corporation faced widespread competition in network television, its market share of 70% of all news consumption on both TV and radio was something that "even long-term loyalists find uncomfortable".

He suggested that while the BBC's stance of co-ordinating its editorial content across the organisation was a good thing, it can "lead to homogeneity" and conformity.

Mr Mosey said: "On the BBC's own admission, in recent years it did not, with the virtue of hindsight, give enough space to anti-immigration views or to EU-withdrawalists; and, though he may have exaggerated, the former Director-General Mark Thompson spoke of a 'massive bias to the left' in the BBC he joined more than 30 years ago.

"I share Mark's view that there was more internal political diversity in recent times, but that isn't enough unless it's evident in a wider range of editorial view on air."

Mr Mosey said this was not an argument to take a "wrecking ball" to the corporation, but to examine how the licence fee can bring about diversity in broadcasting.

He pointed to a past attempt by Channel 4 to launch a radio service to rival the BBC.

"If that couldn't work as a commercial enterprise, might it enrich the nation if similar bids were open to funding by the licence fee?

"A properly resourced service independent of the BBC could provide bracing competition and increase choice for audiences."

He called for the BBC to still have the "dominant slice of the licence-fee pie", but added: "The hard question for the corporation is why in a digital age it should have the whole pie to itself forever - when doing something different might be better for the public good."

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