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BBC Chair warns off Ofcom

October 16, 2008

The BBC chairman, Sir Michael Lyons fired a shot across the bows of regulator Ofcom over the proposals laid out in the regulator’s second review of public service broadcasting.

Lyons warned against a “quick fix” and pointed out that it was not in Ofcom’s remit to help plug Channel 4’s funding gap by giving the rival broadcaster money from the corporation’s commercial subsidiary, BBC Worldwide. He said the industry should “stop looking to Ofcom for the answers, because more regulation is not what’s needed” and instead find “active” ways to “encourage greater cooperation”.

Briefing reporters Lyons warned: “Hasty moves to dismantle structures which have taken decades to mature in return for a quick financial gain might look tempting at first glance, but they have a habit of coming back with a bite."

He also gave a strong reminder to Ofcom that it did not have the power to hand over any of BBC Worldwide’s money to Channel 4. “It’s owned by the BBC. It’s a subsidiary of the BBC,” Lyons said. He added that when he read Ofcom’s second public service broadcasting review, published last month, he found the “wording relating to transferring Worldwide to Channel 4 … extraordinary”.

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