Page last updated at 20:02 GMT, Monday, 23 February 2009

BBC 'wants to help broadcasters'

Sir Michael Lyons
Sir Michael Lyons said the BBC licence fee was an "enormous privilege"

The BBC Trust chairman has sounded a note of caution about sharing resources with other broadcasters.

Sir Michael Lyons told Cardiff Business Club the BBC wanted to help ITV regional news and Channel 4 in the face of a drop in advertising income.

But he was not interested in proposals simply transferring value from the BBC.

He said the BBC could share resources in Wales with ITV and S4C as long as editorial independence was retained but would not offer support "at any price".

He also confirmed a plan for a new online video news service, which was known as BBC Local, was "dead".

The BBC Trust provisionally rejected controversial plans to launch a 68m network of local news websites with video content at the end of last year.

But Sir Michael said that following a public consultation, the trust's decision was final.

The BBC website - bbc.co.uk - was the third most popular site in the UK and the only one out of the UK's top 10 most visited sites which was British-owned, he said.

'Editorial independence'

He also said some political criticism of the corporation management's decision not to show a the Disaster Emergency Committee's charity appeal for Gaza crossed the line between "fair comment and undue interference in the editorial independence of the BBC".

"At that point I thought a red card was in order," he said.

But he said he was glad that following his action, the tone of the political comment moderated.

There was "explicit recognition" from senior Westminster voices that this was a matter for the BBC and not for government, he added.

On the issue of public sector broadcasting partnerships in the UK, Sir Michael said the trust was trying to ensure that the BBC "plays its full part in helping secure a sustainable future".

He said: "The licence fee gives the BBC a secure, relatively predictable income. That's an enormous privilege - particularly at a time of great economic uncertainty. And with privilege comes responsibilities."

He said the BBC believes it could play a role in helping to ensure a more secure future for Channel 4, and he also referred to the "long relationship" between the BBC and S4C.

Sir Michael said BBC Wales was currently reviewing its property strategy, with its Cardiff headquarters "showing its age".

Sir Michael Lyons
Sir Michael Lyons said the BBC licence fee was an "enormous privilege"

He said additional facilities would be needed to cope with the expansion of network production at BBC Wales.

"There could well be the potential here to share technology and infrastructure for the mutual benefit of the BBC and its partners, and of course for the benefit of their audiences too," said Sir Michael.

He said as far as the BBC was concerned, in the context of partnership possibilities, "the obvious partner in mind has been ITV Wales".

He added: "But if ITV were to decide it no longer wanted to commit to regional provision in Wales, there there is no reason, in principle, why the benefits could not flow to other providers."

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