Media: Talk of the Trade: Auntie's prognosis

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The Independent Online
A REAL DEBATE about the long-term future of the BBC is finally starting up. It is inspired not so much by the rackety system of finance known as the universal licence fee, or by political malice, but by anxiety about whether, beyond the 1996 Charter renewal, the BBC will be able to punch its weight in the global communications market if it remains a government-controlled public body. The concern led to the decision by Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, to hold a seminar on the issue earlier this month. The problem for viewers and listeners is whether the programmes and values that make the BBC special would survive in an organisation partly funded by advertising, partly offering restricted services on subscription. Essential reading for the Auntie debate is the booklet by Ian Hargreaves, deputy editor of the Financial Times and a former head of news and current affairs at the BBC. Sharper Vision: The BBC and the Communications Revolution, pounds 5.95, is published by Demos. It's a better read than anything produced within the BBC.