BBC could face curbs under Tories

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has hinted that a Conservative government would curb the BBC's resources to stop it crowding out smaller commercial players in the media.

Speaking at the International Media and Communications Summit in Oxford on Monday, Osborne said that he believed the BBC should try and avoid abusing its "privileged position" and "huge resources".

He said: "I am concerned that in too many of its non-core activities, particularly the internet, it is stifling the growth of innovative new companies that simply can't compete with BBC budgets."

His comments follow those of Tory leader David Cameron, who last week warned editors at the Newspaper Society's annual lunch that he believed there was a problem with the BBC over-extending itself.

Osborne also went on to mention the BBC's developments in programming for local communities — "ultra-local television" — which he believed could have a "ruinous effect" on local papers and local radio stations.

ITN News chief executive Mark Wood told Press Gazette that he felt there was little or no clarity to BBC expenditure.

He said: "It's always quite hard to know what's new [expenditure] if [the BBC] don't tell you where they're spending their money now. Some things have been made clear, but others remain quite obscure and their definitions tend to be quite fluid."

The BBC has revealed that it intends to ask the Government to increase the current licence fee by 2.3 per cent above the rate of inflation from April 2007 in order to assist the corporation in its developments.

A spokesman for the Government's Department of Culture, Media and Sport told Press Gazette: "One of the major themes of the BBC White Paper is ensuring that the BBC doesn't crowd out the wider market and always acts in the public interest.

"This will be done through ensuring that BBC services meet core purposes and are subjected to stringent public value tests and Ofcom-led market impact assessments."

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