The Guardian, rather than the Rupert Murdoch press, lobbied the government to "clip the wings" of the BBC, a minister has revealed.
Ed Vaizey, minister of state for culture and the digital economy, has told MPs the Guardian was not happy about BBC expansion in Australia and the US, two areas the newspaper group has targeted.
And, speaking in the Commons yesterday, Vaizey dismissed the suggestion that BBC reforms set out earlier this month in a white paper were "somehow shaping our approach to the BBC at the behest of Rupert Murdoch".
City analysts felt the government's BBC white paper went easy on the corporation. But there was some criticism, including from the director of Wolf Hall, who was angered by the prospect of the government nominating members of the BBC board.
Faced with questions over the white paper, Vaizey told the Commons: "I tell you this, Mr Speaker, with utter sincerity and truthfulness that the only organisation that has ever lobbied me to clip the wings of the BBC is the Guardian…
"It comes to me regularly – quite legitimately, I have to say – to say that it is trying to make a living, as it were, digitally in the digital world. It has been opening websites. It opened an office in Australia and came to complain about the presence of the BBC in Australia taking talent from the Guardian in Australia and paying too much. It also lobbied me about the presence of the BBC in the US, where the Guardian also wants to have a presence."
He added: "We have emphasised, in deference to the Guardian, the importance of the BBC being distinctive. We have strengthened its independence by ensuring that it can appoint half the members of the unitary board, and we have put in place a mid-term review so that the BBC can keep pace with technological change. That is only right and proper."