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Green Paper due this week

Scotsman chief among advisers reviewing BBC

BBC The VoiceJohnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield is one of eight advisers appointed by the UK Culture Secretary to lead a review of the BBC.

Mr Highfield, a former BBC executive and now head of the regional newspaper group that owns The Scotsman, is expected to raise concerns over the BBC website’s impact on local newspapers.

This is one of a number of issues that will be the focus of the review. The BBC faces a cutback in ‘commercial’ programmes and a replacement for the television licence fee.

The UK Government is believed to want the BBC Trust abolished and the corporation reoriented around public service broadcasting.

The sweeping changes are said to be contained in a Green Paper to be issued this week that will  bring about the biggest reform in the BBC for many years.

An appraisal of the corporation will be instigated as part of the renewal of its Charter which expires at the end of next year, according to a report in a Sunday newspaper which says commercial programmes such as The Voice could be for the chop.

The changes being considered include scaling back its website following concerns that it is destroying local newspapers and websites which are unable to compete with a rival that is subsidised by the taxpayer.

Commissioning of more independent companies to make programmes is also among the suggestions as well as an investigation into whether the news is politically impartial.

The advisers appointed by John Whittingdale, the UK Culture Secretary, also  include Dawn Airey, the former head of Channel 5, who favours cutting the licence fee; and Colette Bowe, the former chairman of Ofcom who believes the telecoms watchdog should be the BBC’s regulator.

Last week he said the BBC would have to take on the £650 million cost of subsidising the licence fee for the over-75s.

 

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