UK needs channel like Fox News, says BBC chief

Mark Thompson speaks up in favour of opinionated journalism

BBC director general Mark Thompson said the UK also needed a channel like Fox News, which encourages opinionated journalism, as existing rules to guarantee impartiality in television were becoming outdated in the era of the internet.

Speaking at a Whitehall seminar on impartiality in broadcasting, Thompson said eventually the distinction between the web and television may collapse and in that case it does not make sense for broadcasters to have a monopoly over the airwaves.

He argued that going further; readers may expect a broad range of choices and may want to be exposed to opinionated journalism in order to make up their mind on an issue.

Thompson questioned why the BBC and Channel 4, which have a proven history of broadcasting polemic programmes, should not focus on opinionated programmes.

While impartiality is sovereign for the BBC, he said it was not necessary for the corporation to have a monopoly over news for ever. He added that he BBC News services could remain impartial even by airing "extreme and radical perspectives".

Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor who chaired the debate, said he was surprised by his boss's plea for regulatory liberalisation.