BBC Is Too Big, Too Liberal, Former Top Executive Says

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Roger Mosey

Roger Mosey suggests in an editorial in Rupert Murdoch's "Times" of London that the U.K. public broadcaster should share the license fee it gets from taxpayers with rivals.

LONDON – The BBC is too big and has focused too much airtime on representing liberal views on some big news stories, a former top executive of the U.K. public broadcaster said in a Friday newspaper editorial entitled "A Smaller BBC Would Be Good for Audiences."

Roger Mosey, a 30-year veteran of the BBC who was in charge of its London 2012 Summer Olympics coverage and then served as editorial director before his departure this summer, suggested that in an age of austerity, BBC director general Tony Hall and his team should ask the question: "Could we be any smaller while still delivering our core mission?"

Writing in the Times of London, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, he also suggested that the U.K. public broadcaster should share the license fee it gets from British taxpayers with other noncommercial broadcasters to ensure more diversity of media voices.

Mosey mentioned, for example, that the BBC has itself found in a review that it has not represented critics of the European Union or immigration enough on the public airwaves. He argued that the broadcaster risked alienating audiences as a result. "There was more internal political diversity in recent times, but that isn't enough unless it's evident in a wider range of editorial views on air," Mosey wrote.

Addressing the BBC's practice of coordinating editorial content across its various outlets, he said it was "generally a good thing," but also had downsides. "It means that more of the same core content plays across even more platforms," Mosey wrote. "Co-ordination can therefore lead to homogeneity; and that can be intensified by regulation that sees there being 'right' and 'wrong' answers."

Amid recent political calls for the BBC to share its public funding with other broadcasters, Mosey said: "There should be a debate about how the next license fee settlement helps pluralism and diversity."

The BBC's current charter, which guarantees its license fee, ends in 2016.

The question in the digital age must be why the BBC "should have the whole pie to itself forever -- when doing something different might be better for the public good," Mosey said, pointing out estimates that the BBC is responsible for 70 percent of U.K. news consumption. He suggested that "even long-term loyalists" find this kind of market share "uncomfortable."

Channel 4 a few years ago tried to launch radio services to rival the BBC's offerings, and similar attempts at launching new services could deserve part of the license fee revenue that currently goes only to the BBC, Mosey suggested.

But he concluded: "None of this is an argument for taking a wrecking ball to the BBC. Its strengths remain manifest."

Mosey recently took on a leadership position at Selwyn College, part of the University of Cambridge, after leaving the BBC in July.

A BBC representative said about Mosey's Times editorial. "We want every license fee payer to have a part in the conversation about the future of the BBC. This is one strand of that."

Twitter: @georgszalai