'Unacceptable conduct': Channel 5 turns on BBC

First rival public response to charter review claims the corporation is 'too powerful'
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The Independent Online

Channel 5 has attacked the BBC for being "too big, too rich, too imperial and too powerful".

Channel 5 has attacked the BBC for being "too big, too rich, too imperial and too powerful".

The commercial TV channel, which is owned by United Business Media and RTL of Luxembourg, has made the comments in its submission to the Government's BBC charter review.

The commercial broadcaster concedes that the BBC is a "good thing" but argues that its programming, online and digital activities are too wide-ranging, to the detriment of both the commercial operators and the public.

Channel 5, whose chief executive is Jane Lighting, criticises the BBC for exceeding its remit as a public service broadcaster, citing BBC3, the arts and comedy digital channel launched last year, as an example. It acknowledges that the BBC should compete with other broadcasters to win audience share, but criticises the public broadcaster for going beyond these boundaries too often.

It says the BBC's attempts to claim the best slots on the Freeview channel menu, and so get the most viewers, is a "classic, but not untypical, example of the BBC's unacceptable attitude and conduct".

Channel 5 also criticises the BBC for buying in too much programming, which inflates the price for other broadcasters. It adds that the BBC's cross-promotion of its programmes and publicationsdistorts the market. Channel 5 says the BBC should continue to be funded by the licence fee and that it should not show advertisements.

It also believes there should be more transparent regulation of the BBC, with a greater part played by media regulator Ofcom. It says the BBC's board of governors should not have any responsibility for regulation as this creates a conflict of interest.

The Government has received more than 5,000 responses to the consultation, which closed at the end of last month. The Channel 5 submission is the first from a rival broadcaster to be made public.

Other broadcasters, such as BSkyB, are thought to be waiting for the second round of consultations being held later this year before submitting their views.

But the BBC, now facing its most serious crisis, will be concerned if Channel 5's views are widely shared by the industry.

In less than a year, the Government will publish a Green Paper looking at the role of the BBC, its funding and whether it should be allowed to take part in commercial activities.

The Hutton inquiry into former BBC correspondent Andrew Gilligan's report on weapons of mass destruction was heavily critical of senior BBC management.

Within three days of its publication, chairman Gavyn Davies and director-general Greg Dyke both resigned.