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Wednesday, March 3, 1999 Published at 19:52 GMT


Hussey hits out at BBC

Lord Hussey explains his views to the BBC's 'The World Tonight'
The former chairman of the BBC, Marmaduke Hussey, has attacked the corporation's management for spending too much on new services.

Speaking during a debate in the House of Lords on the future of public service broadcasting, Lord Hussey also criticised the amount of red tape at the BBC and said morale was low.

Baronness Young: "We are facing a very competitive market"
Lord Hussey, who was chairman between 1986 and 1996, said the BBC was still a marvellous organisation which put out great programmes on radio and television but he said it had made strategic mistakes.

Red tape

He said there was too much bureaucracy in the BBC and he criticised the expansion of non-core activities, such as the 24 hour television news service, News 24, at the licence payers' expense.

The BBC's Chief Political Correspondent, John Sergeant, reports from Westminster on Lord Hussey's speech
Lord Hussey, better known as Marmaduke Hussey, said the corporation should concentrate and invest in the mainstream channels.

Lord Hussey told the Lords programme makers had too little influence in the BBC and he said people and programmes were "very much more important" than policies and processes.

He criticised the amalgamation of television and radio resources and said £4m spent on the continuous news service, News 24, would have been better spent securing the rights to English test cricket.

'Budgets squeezed'

Lord Hussey said: "The future of the BBC lies in the minds and skills of those programme makers whose budgets are now being dangerously squeezed".

[ image: Lord Hussey warned the BBC not to get drawn into a battle with Rupert Murdoch]
Lord Hussey warned the BBC not to get drawn into a battle with Rupert Murdoch
He also warned the BBC not to get drawn into a battle with Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

Lord Hussey said Mr Murdoch's was one of the "roughest, toughest and richest companies" in the world and he said the BBC did not have the "ruthless, competitive spirit" needed to defeat Sky.

Changed world

The BBC responded to Lord Hussey's attack with a statement rebuffing his criticisms.

It said: "Much has happened in the media world in the three years since Lord Hussey left, but the BBC remains single-minded in offering programmes on radio and television which the market alone will not provide.

"We are entirely committed to carrying forward the public service principles top which Lord Hussey refers, ensuring that licence fee payers are not excluded from the benefits of new technology."

The BBC's vice-chairman, Baroness Young, told the Lords debate broadcasting was a "British success story".

'Fragmented market'

She said: "We need high quality public service broadcasting much more as a result of market fragmentation."

Lady Young said: "We need to carry forward the principles of informing, educating and entertaining when the market itself will not necessarily ensure them."

She also defended the BBC programme Vanessa, which has been accused of "faking" guests.

Baroness Young said the programme was aiming to inform and educate, not simply for popularity.

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