U.K. gov't turmoil may derail b'cast review

Conservative party has very different plans for the BBC

LONDON -- Political turmoil here could derail the two-year government inquiry into the future of public service broadcasting, but Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said "you're hired" to "The Apprentice" star Alan Sugar.

Sugar, the self-made cockney electronics millionaire, whose short temper and caustic comments have reduced many a wannabe Apprentice to tears, has been appointed to the House of Lords and named enterprise tsar here, with a brief to promote entrepreneurship.

The announcement is part of a cabinet reshuffle forced by the resignation of three cabinet ministers in as many days and the public anger over revelations about fraudulent expenses claims by hundreds of members of Parliament.

The government's review of the broadcasting industry, set to be announced June 16, is expected to give details of a major planned alliance between the BBC and Channel 4 and to outline future plans to shore up ailing broadcaster ITV.

But the findings will need to form part of government legislation in the Queen's Speech this fall before they can be acted upon.

"At this rate the (Brown) government will never make it to the autumn, and this legislation will be toast," a senior broadcasting source said. "If these (parliamentary) rebels force an election, the Conservatives have a totally different agenda."

Culture secretary Andy Burnham is expected to move to the health department, and this could derail the legislative process further.

Tory culture and media spokesman Jeremy Hunt has called for an annual review of the BBC license fee and for the pubcaster to cut its commercial operations.