BBC is to have a new online competitor funded by me

Oh great joy, the Ofcom regulator in the UK has decided that the BBC need some online competition and so looks set to throw £350m at setting matters right – after all, there is a shortage of ventures trying to create digital media operators. Best of all, we UK taxpayers get to fund this idea – yep, we fund a competitor to the organisation we already fund. You just couldn’t make this up. This story is an extract from The Guardian in the UK.

Regulator presses on with plan for new digital operator

· Ofcom chief insists his broadband idea is right
· ‘Some of most innovative ideas are online’

Owen Gibson and Richard Wray
Thursday December 21, 2006
The Guardian

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards yesterday vowed to press ahead with plans for a “public service publisher” – a new digital operator – to compete with the BBC and Channel 4 in the online age.

The regulator first raised the idea for a new entrant with a budget of £350m a year, delivering content via broadband, in 2004 when it was roundly derided by broadcasters. But Mr Richards said yesterday that Ofcom had been proved right by subsequent events. “The kernel of the idea, I’m absolutely increasingly convinced we were right about,” he told the Guardian. “Look at the speed of change. Where was MySpace when we did that? Where was Google Video?”

The remodelled idea for the PSP, which could come under the wing of Channel 4 or be a new publicly funded entity, would be “very new media focused”. He said some of the most innovative ideas were online. Mr Richards said he was on a “personal crusade” to maintain a plurality of public service provision in the digital age.

“If you look at our annual plan, its the imprimatur of that ambition. You’ll see the PSP, you’ll see a piece of work on children’s programming, a review of Channel 4 and a review of the future of news,” he said. But he admitted that a proposed review of Channel 4’s finances pencilled in for the first quarter of next year had already slipped. “It’s been pushed back a little bit because we couldn’t get the data from Channel 4. But that’s not something we need to resolve in the first month of next year, it’s a long term question.”

Mr Richards, who took over as Ofcom chief executive in October, also declared that public service broadcasting in its traditional sense was already dead: “I use public service broadcasting as a euphemism. I think it’s gone. We toy with the idea of calling it public service content. That’s what we call it here. Its meaning has changed over time. When I say public service broadcasting I mean the purposes associated with it.”

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