LONDON - Britain's newly-elected Conservative government suggested the BBC could become smaller and cheaper on Thursday in the opening salvo of a highly-charged battle for the future of the world's biggest public service broadcaster.
Media Secretary John Whittingdale told parliament he would review whether the scale and scope of the BBC was still appropriate as part of a major study ahead of its 10-yearly Charter renewal in 2016.
"With so much more choice in what to consume and how to consume it, we must at least question whether the BBC should try to be all things to all people, to serve everyone over every platform or if it should have a more precisely targeted mission," he said.
Whittingdale said the review would look at how the BBC was funded, the scale of its output and whether it needed tougher oversight by a new regulatory body.
Any attempt to change the remit of the 92-year-old public broadcaster provokes a fierce reaction in Britain, where it commands a special status through its role showing national affairs such as royal weddings, sporting events and the weather.
Opinions are split between those who see the BBC as a prized national institution which exports British culture and unbiased news around the world and those who see it as a bloated, overly bureaucratic organization that throttles commercial competition.
Much of the criticism is led by the country's right-leaning national press which competes with the corporation through the provision of news online.
The BBC is currently funded by a licence fee that is paid by every TV-owning household, helping it to employ almost 19,000 people and enjoy 2014/15 operating costs of nearly 5 billion pounds ($7.79 billion).