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£300m BBC rival ‘waste of cash’, says VLV

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An influential television lobby group has warned that Ofcom’s radical plans to create a new £300 million public service broadcaster to compete with the BBC could prove to be a waste of money.

Speaking in her capacity as chairwoman of the campaigning body Voice of the Listener and Viewer, Jocelyn Hay said that although the proposition sounds “interesting” it might be more effective to plough the money into programmes for existing broadcasters.

She commented: “In some ways it looks very attractive but we need to study the practicalities of this and whether in fact it is the best use of a sum of £300 million. Is setting up a new channel better than using that money to improve the existing provisions of channels that already exist?”

Ofcom proposed last week in its long-awaited report on the future of PSB that a not-for-profit TV channel should be set up in competition to the BBC in a bid to “maintain and strengthen” high-quality programming.

The so-called Public Service Publisher would be backed by an annual budget of £300 million and pay around £150,000 an hour for up to three hours per day of high quality programmes, including drama, arts and comedy shows.

The Corporation will be barred from running the service but any other organisation, including ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and BSkyB could bid to run the station. Its budget will come from either an increased licence fee, a government grant or a tax on the profits of UK broadcasters.

Ofcom’s report also recommended that the BBC’s licence fee should be retained until 2016 but there should be a mid-tern review in 2011.

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