Right now - in the midst of a probing government review of its royal charter (the structure under which it operates, due for renewal in 2007) - you'd think the BBC would keep its head well below the parapet.

Instead, it appears determined to further alienate its commercial rivals - who argue that the publicly-funded corporation should not compete in areas beyond its broadcasting remit - by announcing plans to sell music on one or more of its many successful websites.

Giving the keynote speech to the Edinburgh International Television Festival, director general Mark Thompson said the music sales plan is part of a wider strategy to enable consumers to shop online at BBC websites.

Said he: "The idea that, in the age of the iPod, the public would not welcome the opportunity to actually buy a download of a piece of music they have heard on a BBC site - and to be able to buy in a simple and clear way without having to go through twenty-nine pages of health warnings - seems to me ridiculous."

Nodding in the direction of the music industry, if not of other online retailers, Thomson continued: "I believe it would be in the BBC's interests to work in collaboration with commercial players. As a partner we think we can help to open up new markets and new value for commercial rights holders and platform owners."

Unveiling another initiative, Thomson said that broadband users will be able to retrospectively view any programme they have missed via a service called MyBBCPlayer.

This will be launched next year, acknowledging "clear evidence of demand" for downloading BBC content. An archive of radio and television news is already available online.

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