The BBC could be forced to share its radio archive with its commercial radio rivals, if a move suggested by media regulator Ofcom goes ahead.
The BBC radio archive includes series such as The Goon Show
The BBC's radio archive contains more than 750,000 programmes from the corporation's 82-year history.
Ofcom chief executive Stephen Carter suggested the BBC sell programmes to commercial stations "to enhance their offering to the listening public".
This would also help the take-up of digital radio in the UK, he said.
In a speech to radio professionals on Wednesday, Mr Carter said he did not "see any great appetite" for the privatisation of BBC radio stations.
"It is far from clear that privatisation would help progress towards digital," he said. "Indeed, the transitional disruption would be more likely to hinder it."
But he suggested making BBC radio archives - which include classic comedies such as The Goon Show and Hancock's Half Hour, as well as dramas and unreleased music sessions - more widely available.
He asked: "Would non-discriminatory, non-exclusive access - for a fair payment - to the BBC sound archive allow commercial services to enhance their offering to the listening public?
"And, crucially, [would it] do so without damaging the BBC's ability and commitment to offer a strong digital radio service proposition?"
Mr Carter said a "similar model" was already effective in television, where old BBC programmes appear on UKTV - a joint venture between the BBC and commercial broadcaster Flextech.
"There is room for the same archive programming on both commercial and public service channels," Mr Carter said.
Archive BBC television shows such as Porridge are broadcast on UKTV
He added he recognised the difference between radio and TV, but hoped the BBC would give the "contentious" idea an "honest, dispassionate appraisal".
BBC director of radio Jenny Abramsky told the Social Market Foundation meeting the BBC already made selective programming available via its audio-on-demand service.
She added the corporation was currently "in discussions with a number of other parties" about making the BBC archive more accessible to the public.
Ofcom's suggestion followed an earlier idea by ex-BSkyB chief executive Tony Ball that the BBC should auction off its most popular TV programmes to commercial rivals.
Mr Carter acknowledged that Mr Ball's idea, announced during his 2003 McTaggart lecture, had "quickly died a death".
But last August, Greg Dyke, then BBC director general, said he wanted viewers and listeners to be able to download the complete BBC radio and TV archives via the internet in the future.