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BBC Potter spin

BBC bosses have launched a robust defence of their decision to spend up to £10 million on the terrestrial rights to the first Harry Potter film, saying rival broadcasters were not prepared to invest in family viewing at Christmas.

Lorraine Heggessey, the BBC1 controller, rejected accusations that the deal with Warner Bros was a waste of licence payers’ money.

Commercial rivals, such as ITV and Sky, refused to spend money on their Christmas schedules because it was not profitable, she said.

In the keynote speech to Edinburgh international television festival at the weekend, Tony Ball, the chief executive of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB, said the BBC should be investing instead in original British productions.

But Heggessey said it was the BBC’s duty to provide “quality family entertainment”.

Greg Dyke, the BBC director-general, also disputed the price tag for the Harry Potter, saying it was one of a package of 10 films. However, insiders say the other films are of negligible value.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is expected to be the highlight of BBC1’s schedule on Christmas Day — more than 18 months after its release on video.

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