David Prosser: Tough luck for the Beeb

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The Independent Online

Outlook It was no surprise yesterday to see the BBC director-general, Mark Thompson, rejecting the idea of top-slicing the licence fee. Very understandably, he professes himself horrified at the suggestion that income which is being used to cover the costs of the digital switchover might go elsewhere (outside the BBC, that is) once it is no longer needed for that purpose.

You can't blame Mr Thompson for battling on behalf of the organisation he runs, but his suggestion that the proposals for top-slicing made by Lord Carter are somehow part of an ideological plot against the Beeb smacks of desperation.

In fact, the BBC has only itself to blame for the situation in which it now finds itself. For years, it has used its wealth, provided by licence-payers, to tread an expansionary path, without having to ever give more than a passing thought to the commercial realities governing everyone else in the marketplaces in which it operates.

That expansion has had a detrimental effect on many of its competitors in broadcast, online and, dare we say it, the printed press. Now, in the depths of a recession that is wreaking devastation across every media organisation other than the BBC, Lord Carter has simply suggested a tiny bit of balance-redressing.