John Whittingdale: Press 'entitled to express concern' over BBC producing newspaper-style content online

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale believes newspapers have "legitimate concerns" over the BBC producing newspaper-style content online.

During a debate on the future of the corporation on Radio 4's Media Show, he said: "Newspapers are entitled to be concerned. 

"There is a strong case for the BBC to look at online provision and say 'Is this simply making available the kind of provision we have traditionally done on broadcast media?'

"That seems to me entirely sensible.

"But if they are going to go beyond that and provide news content that looks like newspapers – that's where I think newspapers are entitled to express concern."

Director of BBC's digital and strategy James Purnell said the corporation was reviewing its online output, but said it would be "odd" if the BBC was the only news organisation in the world not to provide online written content.

Whittingdale also issued a warning to the corporation, saying the licence fee's future was an "open question" which was dependent on charter review.

Purnell hit back at the comments, telling the Government that the BBC could seek to pull out of a deal made earlier this year where it agreed to give over-75s free TV licences in return for a hike in the fee from 2017.

He said: "We've agreed and done the licence fee deal. If there is an intention to have a different settlement that would be a departure. We'd probably say that the costs of that agreement would have to go into the licence fee."

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