Sunday Times should come clean on Beeb attack

The Sunday Times fails to declare an interest in its depressing report that the Observer is threatened with closure on the back of Guardian Media Group’s growing operating loss of £36.8 million. This is the paper’s plausible enough spin on GMG’s statement on Friday that it will be unable to carry the current rate of losses beyond 2011. The ST also fails to declare the parent Murdoch group including Sky’s self-interest in its separate story claiming that the Conservatives in power would sell off BBC Radio 1, then wrapping the two points in a wider editorial assault on the BBC for becoming in effect “ a newspaper publisher.” As it sheds crocodile tears for the Observer, the editorial hints at but fails to confirm Murdoch plans, still unconfirmed, to start charging for its own on line product.

At the moment most newspapers give away their content online for free. But this cannot continue and soon all of them will have to charge for it in some form. When that happens, the BBC “newspaper”, which of course will remain free, will gain a huge advantage. The Observer, the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper, is under threat of closure. This underlines the crisis facing the industry. The BBC cannot be allowed to push it over the edge. Fewer newspapers would be bad for democracy

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What lord of nature decreed that when the web started to develop it should become the exclusive preserve of newspapers? Now you know why News International has chosen this moment to turn its guns again on the Beeb. Tomorrow’s media Guardian should be a must-read.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London