Ed Vaizey named U.K. Minister for Culture

To oversee telecoms, digital b'casting, creative industries

LONDON -- In an appointment likely to signal tougher scrutiny for the BBC, Ed Vaizey M.P. has been named minister for culture, communications and creative industries, a role giving him oversight of telecoms, digital broadcasting and the creative industries, it was announced Thursday.

As an opposition Conservative culture spokesman, Vaizey took a tough line on BBC spending, accusing the pubcaster of inflating talent fees and attacking it for being secretive about its talent payments.

He is expected to call on the BBC to publish fully audited accounts, including full details of its star salaries, a move the BBC has opposed on grounds of commercial confidentiality.

Vaizey is also in favor of scrapping the BBC's governing and regulatory body, the BBC Trust. Instead he wants to bring the pubcaster into the same regulatory framework as other broadcasters, where media regulator Ofcom and antitrust bodies the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission, currently decide on mergers, acquisitions and product policy.

The appointment is likely to favor the U.K.'s commercial broadcasters.

Unlike his predecessor Andy Burnham, Vaizey is a fan of product placement and believes that the U.K. should allow a mechanism that could mean annual income of as much as $150 million within five years.

Vaizey has previously encouraged merger plans between state-owned Channel 4 and the RTL Group-owned Five, but the move has been ruled out by Channel 4's recently appointed chief executive David Abraham.
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