Purnell's critics fear shared licence fee could ruin BBC

Culture secretary James Purnell’s proposals to share the BBC licence fee with other public-service broadcasters will weaken the BBC’s ability to make quality programmes.

That’s the view of Barry White, the national organiser of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, writing in today’s Guardian.

“If James Purnell wants to be ‘bold’ in devising a new structure for broadcasting and promoting legislation to preserve the public-service ethos in the digital age, he needs to be more original in his thinking than just wheeling out the old chestnut, floated recently by Ofcom, of top-slicing the BBC licence fee,” White says.

“Top-slicing to allow commercial broadcasters to bid for funds to make public service programmes would immediately weaken the BBC’s own programme-making ability. Other funding models need to be considered.”

Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, meanwhile, agrees that meddling with the licence fee could ruin a national institution.

“This very bad idea is in danger of gaining ground unless a sufficient public outcry stops it dead in its tracks,” she says.

“Labour has paved the way for a Tory government to privatise much of the NHS, education and job centres. Does it really want to breach the founding principles of the BBC too?”

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