Mark Thompson puts the case for carving up the BBC...

Indirectly, not intentionally, of course.

Mark Thompson today justified the BBC's licence fee on the basis that (in the words of the FT) "the quality of commercial broadcasters' news, current affairs and comedy output is declining". I agree (at least, that it isn't getting better). In fact, I have been saying that there is a case for supporting the BBC's news, current affairs, and innovative comedy for years.

But that could be achieved by funding BBC2, Radio 4, and the World Service, "tasked with the undemocratic job of producing high-quality, diverse, educational, public-service broadcasting", as I put it two years ago. At a fraction of the cost of the BBC's current £3bn.

You will notice that Mr Thompson did not try to make the same argument for soap operas and light entertainment. He did not say that commercial broadcasters are providing insufficient quality and choice in music radio and TV. He did not pretend that there is a shortage of sports (and particularly football) coverage in commercial circles. Because even a BBC executive would not have the balls to go out in public and try to make such a blatantly untrue argument.

It seems, then, that Mr Thompson has conceded the point, and that we can move on to discussing the details of the breakup. When even the Director-General of the BBC can see that 80% of its output is not justified by providing a necessary alternative to commercial services, it is time to discuss how, not whether, we are going to move that output properly into the commercial sector.