ITV pays pounds 100,000 Lynam penalty

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The Independent Online
ITV HAS had to take the unprecedented step of paying a pounds 100,000 penalty to the BBC for poaching the sports presenter Des Lynam. The money will settle the star's outstanding contract with the corporation.

The BBC had threatened to take legal action against its former presenter for breaking his contract, which was not due to expire until next year.

The BBC has been getting tough with its rivals for poaching its stars. Last week Peter Salmon, the controller of BBC1, attacked competing channels for using more money rather than greater imagination to create programmes.

However, the corporation's problem with holding on to the biggest sports events is likely to continue. Sir Christopher Bland, the chairman of the BBC board of governors, said Greg Dyke, the incoming director general, would not have enough money to embark on a buying spree for sports rights. Mr Dyke, who is a keen sports fan and a director of Manchester United Football Club, has already said he wants to see the BBC fight harder to win back some of its sporting events, especially the FA Cup, which was lost to ITV.

Sir Christopher told the Radio Times: "Take everything you read with a pinch of salt. People may be disappointed. No director general can magic more resources out of thin air for sport. Where is the money to come from: drama, news, the Internet?"

Sir Christopher warned that the new director general's personal interests should not influence programming choices on the BBC. "The question is: `Is the BBC allocating the right amount of money for sport?"' Sir Christopher asked. "My view, and the governors' view, is that it is. The new director general can take a look at that, analyse the cost per viewer and see if we are spending the right amount on sport. And if the analysis leads him to agree with that, fine."

The chairman's remarks will be seen as the beginning of the BBC's campaign to win an increase in the level of the proposed digital licence fee. The corporation was disappointed after the publication two weeks ago of Gavyn Davies' report into the future funding of the BBC, which recommended a digital licence fee of pounds 24 a month.

The corporation has already said it will not be able to fund all of its plans for digital television - such as a dedicated children's channel - with the proposed digital supplement. The Davies report is subject to a consultation period before the Government decides whether to accept its recommendations and the corporation is planning a high-profile lobbying campaign to highlight sport and other areas of programming, which it says will suffer if the new digital fee is not at the level it wants.

As part of this campaign the BBC unveiled the latest of its trailers last night to help to promote the licence fee to the public. Following on from its Perfect Day and Little People promotional works was a third film, this time featuring the BBC's extensive line-up of foreign correspondents.

Reporters such as Kate Adie and Jeremy Bowen were seen in action and John Simpson, the BBC's world affairs editor, was quoted saying: "The BBC is a voice of reason and honesty in a world that doesn't have enough in it."

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