BBC Boss Offers Glimpse of Public Service Broadcasting's Future

10 June 2008

LONDON: The ongoing debate over public service broadcasting in the UK and the future funding of commercial/PSB hybrid Channel 4 has been fuelled by Caroline Thompson, chief operating officer of the entirely publicly-funded BBC.

She told an audience at the Manchester Business School that giving away part of the licence fee which finances the BBC is not a solution to Channel 4's cash-flow problems.

Instead, she suggested, the BBC should create "new relationships with other content and service providers - finding new ways of leading audiences not just to BBC content but also to interesting and stimulating material from others".

She added: "For the BBC, greater partnership may mean sharing some of the benefits of public investment and scale, and thereby helping the industry as a whole to prosper and grow."

But Thompson insisted this spirit of co-operation did not extend to top-slicing the corporation's licence-fee [effectively a tax on TV-owners], nor did PSB need yet more government regulation.

Channel 4 has argued long and hard for a government subsidy to help it fulfil its public service obligations.

State-owned but commercially funded, the broadcaster claims its finances are approaching a parlous state as advertising revenues decline with expansion of digital channels.

Thompson, however, is of the opinion that: "There will be areas of public service output that remain uneconomic for anyone but the BBC to provide.

"But one can't rush to the easy conclusion that these areas - absent competition - will want for quality."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff