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BBC Boss ‘Confident’ Over Licence Fee

Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, says he’s upbeat over government negotiations to renew the £3.5 billion ($5.5 billion) licence fee. Talks over the next 4-year licence fee settlement, which runs 2013-16, are due to start next summer. The BBC has been having a bad time of it lately, rocked by scandals over executive pay and the amount it pays stars. Thompson, interviewed at today’s Royal Television Society International Conference in London, denied public perception of the Beeb has been damaged. If anything, he said, the public’s estimation of the BBC has gone up. The coalition government may still cut 2012’s licence fee, while the Beeb would like a 2% rise. It’s already offered to freeze this year’s licence fee. Right now every UK household pays for BBC service through a TV licence fee of £145.50 ($227).

Thompson suggested Brit TV viewers may be able to buy programmes through its new internet TV YouView service, which is due to launch spring 2011. The one-week window when viewers can watch BBC shows for free via the iPlayer will stay, Thompson said. But the director general said viewers may be able to download programmes to keep, much as you can buy BBC DVDs in shops today.

The BBC boss said the Corporation would not provide even more local news coverage. Thompson said the Corporation needs to make services it already runs better rather than expand further. Thompson was responding to UK culture secretary … Read More »

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Scrapping Licence Fee Will Give BBC ‘Global Prescence of Hollywood Studio’

By | Monday August 2, 2010 @ 6:01am PDT

So says a new report on the future of the BBC, published by the Adam Smith Institute, known for its free-market views. The report, Global Player Or Subsidy Junkie?, argues that the BBC is far too inward looking. Its dependence on a compulsory tax means it spends too much energy defending itself with government. The BBC is the only state broadcaster in the world that not funded directly by the state. Instead, each UK household must pay an additional £143 ($227) a year on top of what it already pays in tax. David Graham, the report’s author, says that the BBC invests heavily in “opinion management” rather than being international in its outlook. It spends too much time worrying what politicians think rather than making shows you can export overseas. Scrapping the licence fee and replacing it with voluntary PBS-style subscription, would give the BBC “the global presence of a Hollywood studio, but with a wider range of output than a Hollywood studio,” says Graham.

Replacing the £3.5 billion annual licence fee with a voluntary subscription — topped up by government until 2015 to ensure BBC services don’t suffer for now – would also level the playing field for commercial rivals. Graham argues that the licence fee is an enforced payment system for services available elsewhere for free through advertising. Almost everything the BBC does is matched by the private sector, including classical music radio. The BBC’s massive footprint – combined … Read More »

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