Sell BBC Radio, C4 To Fund Public Web Publisher: Bazalgette

Add this to the file of BBC detractors. Former Endemol creative director Peter Bazalgette has called for BBC Radio 1 and 2 to be sold and for BBC Worldwide and Channel 4 to be privatised to finance a public-service online publisher. With the money: “The next generation of comedy talent would post their videos – the most-watched would then earn a bursary. It would link the existing offerings of museums, galleries, theatre companies, opera houses and concert halls.”

Ofcom first proposed an online “Public Service Publisher” (PSP), in the mould of the BBC, in 2005 – with a suggested £100 million budget and a remit to protect against US web dominance. But the regulator’s ongoing second review of public service broadcasting makes virtually no mention of the idea and it seems certain the notion of a dedicated online outfit has been relegated in favour of guaranteeing public service output from existing public service broadcasters.

But, while the notion of selling Radio 1 and Radio 2 will almost certainly not fly, Bazalgette is close to the mark on the issues of Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide. Privatising C4 is one of four ideas floated by Ofcom in its review, for a service that is struggling financially to meet the digital future and that is likely to end up with money from the BBC license fee. Economic think-tank the Adam Smith Institute last week called for the BBC’s profit-making arm to be privatised.

Bazalgette, in his speech to the Royal Television Society, Bazalgette criticised the review process (via Variety): “We’ve all been facing in the wrong direction and obsessing with the institutions of the old world. Let’s turn round, face the new world and start to imagine the possibilities.” Bazalgette quit Endemol in September “to pursue a range of interests potentially investigating projects in the digital field”.