BBC chiefs: slicing up the licence fee is not in the public's interest

By Caitlin Pike

The BBC is “fundamentally opposed” to the prospect of top-slicing
the licence fee to subsidise non-BBC public service broadcasting.

It also wants to preserve the licence fee beyond the year 2012, when
the Government plans to complete the switchover to all-digital services.

The
corporation’s views on funding became clearer this week when it
released its formal response to the Government’s green paper on the
future of the BBC, which was published in March.

Although it was
positive about most of the proposals for the BBC – such as setting up
an external trust to governthe corporation – it challenged the
Government over the planned review of funding, the possible top-slicing
of the licence fee and the extent to which it had underestimated the
potential impact of new technologies on the BBC in the years ahead.

The
BBC’s chairman, Michael Grade, speaking on behalf of the corporation,
said: “Using the licence fee to solve a theoretical future deficit in
public service broadcasting provision is a thoroughly bad idea. “Not good news for viewers and listeners.”

Grade
went on to say that it was vital that the BBC, on behalf of licence fee
payers, remained agile and able to respond to new opportunities that
will open up as technology develops.

Speaking alongside Grade,
the BBC’s director general, Mark Thompson, reiterated the need for the
licence fee in the fully digital age, saying it would ensure that
everyone had access to digital media.

“At a moment when the
pressure on commercial media providers to focus on monetising affluent
subgroups of the population is relentlessly growing, universal access
to the best news and information, educational and cultural content has
never seemed more important,” he said.

“That’s why we
believe the licence fee will be an effective vehicle for delivering the
BBC’s public purposes through and beyond the next charter.”

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