Media regulator Ofcom has recommended setting up a new public service broadcaster with a budget of £300m, to rival the BBC. The new entity - which Ofcom calls the "public service publisher"' - would offer programmes over TV, the internet and mobile phones.
To counteract the growing commercialisation of ITV, Channel 4 and Five, the regulator wants the new organisation to provide high quality films, current affairs and factual programmes.
Ofcom compares the plan to the formation of Channel 4. The new broadcaster could be set up before all the nation's TV sets are switched over to a digital system in 2012.
Stephen Carter, the chief executive of Ofcom, said: "It's not intended to be a conventional television channel. It will be a content producer, a commissioning house and a generator of public service provisions."
Ofcom also published six other proposals in its second phase of its review into public service broadcasting.
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The BBC said it agreed "that sustaining a plurality of PSBs (public sector broadcasters) is an important objective for the future of British broadcasting". In a statement it added: "Ofcom's proposed options for ensuring this plurality in the long term inevitably raises complex questions which we will engage with during their forthcoming consultation," commented the BBC.
Ofcom's call for a new, state-funded, public service broadcaster received little support from The Times. Its editorial leader described the idea as "bold, but flawed" since it "risks creating a shrunken imitation of the BBC with too many of the corporation's weaknesses and too few of its strengths; and in any case is so loosely defined that it raises serious questions about whether ambiguity was part of the Ofcom brief".
The Financial Times was scathing: "Ofcom's proposals for reversing the tide are doomed to expensive failure," said its editorial. The notion of the new broadcaster - which Ofcom calls a Public Service Publisher - is "a truly improbable recommendation" and "a remnant of an earlier age".
The Guardian backed the recommendation, though pointed out the public service channel could become a "forgotten ghetto amid the myriad digital channels emerging". It added: "It is a risk worth taking because there is a reasonable chance that it will become a catalyst of change for the whole industry at a time when the awesome implications of the digital revolution demand new creative solutions."
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