Research group calls for C4 sale

BBC should fund shows on other networks

LONDON — An influential U.K. think tank has called for a radical overhaul of the BBC and the privatization of pubcaster-commercial hybrid Channel 4, which it says should be allowed to merge with rival broadcaster Five.

The BBC should put quality before ratings and stop spending big bucks on sports rights, U.S. acquisitions, shows for 16- to 35-year-olds and popular entertainment, according to Changing the Channel, a report published by the center-right Policy Exchange.

Instead of competing with commercial webs, the BBC should spend up to 5% of the license fee — paid by all U.K. TV homes — funding public-service content on rival channels.

The report’s author, Mark Oliver, a former BBC strategist, said, “We need a dramatic rethink if we are to continue to deliver public service broadcasting in an entirely new age.”

Report also suggests commercial webs ITV and Five should be allowed to drop their public-service commitments after 2012, when Blighty’s digital switchover is due to be completed.

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