Why commercial TV believes the BBC maintains an unfair advantage

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So exactly why would big, brash, all-American Disney want to hire Chris Smith, possibly the most high-brow Culture Secretary to have occupied the post?

Part of the answer lies in the aggressive campaign that has been waged by Disney's British TV arm against the BBC's plans to introduce two new digital children's channels, which have been approved by the Government.

Led by Paul Robinson, the managing director of UK-branded TV for Disney, the company has repeatedly lobbied against the corporation's plans as being unfair to commercial broadcasters.

The whole issue links directly to the future of television in Britain in the digital age. By the end of next year, it is predicted that three-quarters of all children will live in multi-channel homes.

Mr Robinson has claimed that the BBC would be getting an unfair subsidy from the taxpayer, through the licence fee, to fund channels that offer no public interest and simply replicate the private sector.

The former Talk Radio boss has suggested that the BBC shows little sign of self-governance or an ability to shake off its desire to compete to maximise ratings.

The other contentious issue is that of regulation. Disney is firm in its belief that the BBC should come under the umbrella of the proposed new watchdog, the Office of Communications, or Ofcom.

The BBC counters that handing over accountability to an outside body would run counter to its Royal Charter, which runs out in 2006. To prove the point, its Board of Governors threatened to resign unless the proposal was removed from the recent government White Paper on the issue.

But it is understood that ministers' minds are not entirely closed to the idea of Ofcom taking on some kind of role in monitoring the BBC, even if that meant the Corporation having to abide by the spirit of its guidance on public-service broadcasting.

Although he may be seen by his critics as a "luvvies' luvvie", a creature of the arts alone, Mr Smith's friends say that he was an astute Secretary of State, capable of making tough decisions. Disney clearly agrees.