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EDITIONS
Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Dyke warning over US imports
BBC director general Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke does not want confused legislation
BBC director general Greg Dyke has warned US ownership of UK broadcasters could lead to American shows swamping the networks.

Mr Dyke was speaking to a Parliamentary committee looking into the draft Communications Bill, which could allow US outfits such as Disney or AOL Time Warner to buy into ITV.


No European companies can own a station in Cincinnati

Greg Dyke on US ownership of ITV
He cited the example of the Disney-owned ABC network, which is now dominated by Disney programmes, as an example of what could happen if ITV is bought by an American media giant.

He said US media giants would simply "dump" their own shows on the UK rather than invest in British programming.

"You will get a significant amount of dumping if you allow large American broadcasters or production companies [to buy up commercial stations]," he said.

Mr Dyke added if Disney or its subsidiary ABC was to buy into ITV "you will find an awful lot more Disney programming both good and bad".

He also told the committee that if pay-TV operators were allowed to buy up commercial stations like ITV or Channel 5, it would restrict the market for buying the rights to hit US series like Friends.

The cast of Friends
Friends: Mr Dyke says the bill could hit the market for US shows
"There will be a difficulty if someone who runs a major pay platform in this country and runs the major pay channels can also own a terrestrial channel," he said.

"The price paid by the pay operator is so much greater than the price paid by the free-to-air operator, that actually they can take all the rights in."

Rights for pay-TV screenings of shows are usually sold separately to rights for free-to-air channels.

For example, the pay-TV rights to The Simpsons are held by Sky, but free-to-air rights have recently been bought by Channel 4.

Mr Dyke told the committee the bill should make sure all shows are offered for sale in this way.

No Friends He added: "From the BBC's perspective, there must be a danger that if you allow AOL Time Warner to own ITV then a number of American programmes that have come onto the market won't come onto the market.

"You wouldn't have seen Friends and ER up for sale."

Friends and ER are made by a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner, but the rights to both shows are currently held by Channel 4.

BBC chairman Gavyn Davies
Gavyn Davies was quizzed over BBC profit-making
The director general maintained that it seemed strange that American giants would be allowed to snap up UK companies, while British broadcasters were forbidden from buying into US stations.

"I fail to understand why Britain would want to allow American media companies to own our largest commercial broadcasters while no European companies can own a station in Cincinnati," he said.

Mr Dyke also warned MPs any move to have a single regulator dealing with all media would be a mistake.

Regulatory powers

Many MPs and some media figures would like to see Ofcom, the planned combined communications watchdog, to have total regulatory control over the BBC as well as other broadcasters.

The current draft of the bill allows the BBC's board of governors to retain most of their regulatory powers.


The independence of the BBC over many years has served it and the nation well

Gavyn Davies
BBC chairman
Critics say this allows the corporation to make and enforce its own rules.

Mr Dyke told the joint committee of MPs and Lords that "confused or dual regulation" would be the worst option for everybody involved.

"There would be nothing worse than to have the BBC governors regulating the BBC and then another regulator effectively regulating the BBC governors. It would be a nightmare," he said.

Governors' chairman Gavyn Davies said it would be hard to run a board of governors at all under the constant gaze of Ofcom.

He added: "The independence of the BBC over many years has served it and the nation well and that the core principle of that should be maintained."


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