29 Aug 2009

Murdoch criticises BBC dominance

1:37 pm on 29 August 2009

Australian media giant News Corporation has attacked British broadcasting policy, saying it has created a dominant BBC which threatens independent journalism.

James Murdoch, the company's Europe and Asia chairman and chief executive, told an Edinburgh audience that dumping free, state-sponsored news on the market makes it incredibly difficult for journalism to flourish on the internet.

He said the BBC was crowding out new and existing news providers. While other organisations might rise and fall, the BBC's income is guaranteed and growing.

The BBC receives £3.6 billion pounds a year from the licence fee, while its free-to-air commercial rivals ITV , Channel 4 and Channel 5 (owned by RTL) are struggling as advertising revenues fall.

Mr Murdoch said government intervention was curbing free speech and it would be better served by adhering to the principles of free enterprise, namely the need to make a profit, and trusting customers to pay for the news they valued.

"It is essential for the future of independent digital journalism that a fair price can be charged for news to people who value it," he said.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp, has said he will start charging for the organisation's content online, including from newspapers such as The Sun and The Times in Britain.

"The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit," his son said in his speech to the Edinburgh Television Festival.

James Murdoch said the lines between different forms of media had blurred but broadcasting alone remained centrally planned, and the UK government had created unaccountable institutions such as the BBC Trust, Channel 4 and regulator Ofcam.