The Independent's media columnist Stephen Glover today joins the critics of the BBC website who claim it is strangling newspapers by preventing them charging for their online material.
Glover takes issue with Financial Times editor Lionel Barber's prediction that "almost all" news organisations will be charging for online content within a year.
He says: "The problem he does not consider is the BBC website. This provides only limited competition to FT.com, which supplies specialist financial information and commentary not freely available elsewhere. But the BBC's increasingly ramifying website, which now includes blogs offering analysis and commentary, competes directly with mainstream newspapers that do not offer "must have" financial articles.
"I find it difficult to see how most titles can successfully apply even a modest charge as long as the BBC offers so much content online free of charge. In effect, the publicly-funded broadcaster is pointing a dagger at the heart of the free Press. If this sounds like special pleading, I cheerfully own up to being guilty.
"The BBC was not set up to produce a newspaper, which is what the BBC website is, in an online form. Without Parliament having had any say, the Corporation has become a major competitor to newspapers in their own medium. The next government must review this covert extension of BBC power. If the BBC website were entirely audio-visual, newspapers would not be forced to compete with the publicly-subsidized written word."
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