Media: MacKenzie complains he lacks cash to outbid BBC for sports events

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The Independent Online
KELVIN MacKENZIE, the former editor of The Sun, called for the privatisation of the BBC yesterday but admitted, in typical fashion, that MPs were unlikely to back his proposal "in a month of Sundays".

Mr MacKenzie, now chairman and chief executive of Talk Radio, was giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee as part of its investigation into the future funding of the BBC and whether the corporation should be allowed to charge extra to pay for the development of digital services.

He argued that taxpayers no longer funded a host of industries that were once nationalised. "Why on earth should they be in the television and radio production business? I say we should privatise this business, especially Radios 1, 2 and 4. Why should the Government be in the pop business or the easy listening business?" he said.

As a first step, a spending cap should be placed on the amount the BBC was allowed to pay for the radio rights for sports events to allow other stations to compete fairly against it. "I can't get sports rights [for Talk Radio] because the taxpayer has more money than I do. It is utterly bizarre," he said.

Mr MacKenzie added that it was time for the BBC to start living in the real world. "I don't go down to Tesco and there is a state-funded shop next door which demands it has all the cakes," he said.

He also said people should not be sent to jail for failing to pay their television licence fee. "The only reason people pay the licence fee is because if they don't pay it they go to jail. Let's make it so that you don't go to jail and we will see how soon we get to 5 per cent paying. I think it would collapse and it would collapse overnight."