The BBC's overall share of analogue TV viewing fell by five per cent last year, Rupert Murdoch's UK mouthpiece, The Times, reported Thursday.

The report could scare hide its glee at the slippage, there being little love lost between BBC management and Murdoch's UK fiefdom which commands over 35% of daily newspaper readership alongside a controlling interest in satellite TV monopoly BSkyB.

According to The Times: "[BBC] spending on new digital channels contributed to an overall loss, which is understood to amount to £188 million ($331m; €277m), and an annual financial shortfall that will not end until 2007. The loss is only moderately better than the previous year's £249 million."

The newspaper also described the BBC deficit as "a legacy of the spending plan introduced by Greg Dyke, the former director-general" - a gibe that epitomizes the bad blood still extant between Dyke and The Times' US-domiciled owner.

Furthermore, alleges the Murdoch organ, the loss "is one of the reasons that Mark Thompson, his [Dyke's] replacement, is cutting 3,800 jobs and recently agreed to sell the BBC Broadcast technical services arm for £166 million.

The Times did not confide to its readers how it had managed to lay hands on the information, contained within the BBC's annual report, supposedly confidential in advance of its publication to Parliament next Tuesday.

The report's data, crows the tabloid title, "will demonstrate that the BBC is spending more per viewer as it struggles to maintain its share of an audience fragmented by multichannel, digital television".

But awash with the hormones of vendetta, The Times forgot to mention Freeview - a multichannel, digital television platform and primarily a BBC initiative - now installed in over five million UK homes. Nor did it take into account the additional BBC viewing numbers accruing from the platform.

Data sourced from The Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff