Don't stifle net content, Tories warn BBC

Public will suffer if it abuses its power

The Tories have warned the BBC not to "stifle the growth of innovative new companies" looking to invest in the internet and new media.

Speaking yesterday, shadow chancellor George Osborne said the Beeb - which doesn't know its IT experts from its elbow - "must not become the Bull in the China Shop of new media" as it follows its own digital agenda.

Osborne's comments come less than a month after the Beeb unveiled its new "editorial blueprint" for emerging digital technologies, including the relaunch of the BBC's website and the creation of more on-demand content.

Speaking last month, BBC director general Mark Thompson said: "The BBC should no longer think of itself as a broadcaster of TV and radio and some new media on the side. We should aim to deliver public service content to our audiences in whatever media and on whatever device makes sense for them, whether they are at home or on the move."

But the Tories have hit back saying that the BBC's growth should not be at the expense of new players trying to gain a foothold in the market.

Osborne pointed out that the BBC was "sheltered from market pressures by its massive income from the compulsory licence fee", and he warned it "must be very careful about not abusing its privileged position and huge resources to crowd out smaller players".

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

He added that another project called Ultra Local Television - programming tailor-made for local communities - could badly hit local newspapers and radio stations, limiting choice for end users.

Instead, Osborne said Government should set out clear guidelines that would prevent the BBC from smothering competition.

El Reg did contact the BBC last night asking it to comment on Osborne's comments. Using the BBC's online media enquiry email form we recived the following swift reply: "503 error message. Service Temporarily Unavailable. The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later." ®

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