There is hope for the BBC yet, as the Murdoch camp (incarnate in The Times and the Sun) ramps up its campaign against Greg Dyke and just about everything the corporation
There is hope for the BBC yet, as the Murdoch camp (incarnate in The Times and the Sun) ramps up its campaign against Greg Dyke and just about everything the corporation does, including News 24. And the great white hope comes in the form of a white paper on communications expected this autumn.

The paper will be the first coherent piece of government thinking to address outstanding issues of ownership (the consolidation of ITV, control of Channel 5 and BSkyB, a merger between NTL and Cable & Wireless Communications) and economic success (improved TV exports). Under existing legislative and regulatory guidelines such issues are currently being looked at piecemeal, falling between the culture and trade departments, the ITC, the Office of Fair Trading and Oftel.

Significantly, the white paper is a joint project from the DCMS and the more powerful DTI - in line with Chris Smith's vision, outlined at the Royal Television Society's Cambridge convention, of 'a future where broadcasting regulation is based in the first instance on competition law, with a reduced set of distinctive media rules added only where strictly necessary'.

Smith's speech put the relaxation of ownership rules - removing 'barriers to investment and expansion' - firmly on the agenda for the first time since the last Broadcasting Act four years ago - and Carlton and United are just the two highest-profile cases attempting to capitalise on this public statement of intent.

What the speech also did was focus attention on preparations across the broadcast industry for life in an exclusively digital world - another major influence on the forthcoming white paper. Coming at the same time as a review of the BBC's future funding, plus the first biannual review next year of progress against Smith's tests of digital availability and affordability and even pre-emptive discussion of the BBC's charter renewal ahead of 2006, the paper will indeed be 'broad in scope'.

In the meantime, Broadcast hopes there won't be too many casualties on the road to legislation. News 24 already looks vulnerable under Murdoch's onslaught. Surely the government doesn't believe news provision should be left to the market - especially when existing examples show such blatant partiality.