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British government considers breaking up BBC
Updated: 2004-02-15 14:54

The British government is considering a plan to dismantle the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and curb its editorial independence in the wake of a row over Iraq, the Sunday Times reported on Sunday.

The leaked Whitehall documents, drawn up by senior civil servants, suggest the BBC be split into separate entities for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the newspaper said.

The break-up plans come at one of the most vulnerable moments in BBC's 82-year history after the resignations last month of its chairman and director-general.

The documents also showed the government is considering whetherto give a wider role to Ofcom, its new media watchdog, while holding greater controls over BBC's services and output.

Other plans being considered included taking the governors outside the BBC to make them more independent, sharing a portion of its 2.6 billion annual license fee revenue among other broadcasters and closing new services that fail to fulfill the corporation's role as a public service broadcaster.

The move follows criticism of the BBC governors when they defended Andrew Gilligan, a BBC journalist, against government criticism that the BBC did not first check the truth of his reports.

Gilligan aired a report last May, claiming Downing Street had "sexed up" its case for the Iraq war. His report immediately sparked a fierce row with the government.

Gilligan's source, arms expert David Kelly, committed suicide last July shortly after his name was leaked to the public.

Six months after Kelly's death, Lord Hutton said in his report over Kelly's death that Gilligan's claims were "unfounded," slamming "defective" BBC editorial controls over Gilligan's broadcast.

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