BBC defends buying 'Potter' rights, other practices

  August 27, 2003 at 12:24 PM ET
  Cheeser     Moreover (via Electronic Telegraph)

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Publicly-financed British Broadcasting Corporationopens in new window (BBC) is on the defensiveopens in new window after for-profit competitor BSkyB asked that the studio be forced to sell its most popular programsopens in new window and justify the £10 million spent on acquiring the rights to show Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone this December. The company said the BBC has overstepped its charteropens in new window and changes need to be made before its £2.5 billion license fee (tax) is renewed in 2006:

The pay TV company described the plans as "firing the first round" in the debate over the renewal in 2006 of the BBC's royal charter, which sets the terms of the corporation's remit and method of funding.

BSkyB, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, has long accused the BBC of squeezing the commercial sector with a stream of populist programmes, but yesterday's attack goes much further.

Under British law, anyone who consumes the BBC's services is required to payopens in new window a license feeopens in new window of £116 a year. Anyone caught watching TV without a license is subject to a £1,000 fine. The BBC's charter requires the corporation to, among other things, "provide sound and television programmes of information, education and entertainment for general reception" and "organise, present, produce, provide or subsidise concerts, shows, variety performances, revues, musical and other productions and performances and other entertainments."

As to the Harry Potter movie rights:

Lorraine Heggessey, the BBC1 controller, rejected accusations that the deal with Warner Bros was a waste of licence payers' money.

... [she] said it was the BBC's duty to provide "quality family entertainment". Greg Dyke, the BBC director-general, also disputed the price tag for the Harry Potter, saying that it was one of a package of 10 films. However, insiders say the other films are of negligible value.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is expected to be the highlight of BBC1's schedule on Christmas Day - more than 18 months after its release on video.

At an exchange rate of 1.57, the U.S. dollar (USD) amount for each figure above is as follows:

  • £116 per year = $182 USD per year
  • £2.5 billion = $3.92 billion USD
  • £10 million = $15.7 million USD

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