BBC Should Share Licence Fee Income, Suggests Regulator

21 December 2007

LONDON: UK communications regulator Ofcom, like most quasi-nongovernmental organisations, feels the need to justify its costly existence. It also enjoys flexing its bureaucratic pectorals on issues beyond its present remit.

For example, the BBC.

Currently, Britain's globally-admired public service broadcaster is responsible only to the recently created BBC Trust, a body packed with appointees of the former Blair administration.

Their brief is to ensure that the BBC never again steps out of line on sensitive political issues such as Iraq's non-existent 'weapons of mass destruction'.

And that it also also abides by a commercial policy dictated by its media rivals.

Meantime, back at muscle beach, Ofcom has decided to pile Pelion on Ossa. According to Thursday's The Guardian, Ofcom "believes it has to consider a range of options to avert a crisis in public service broadcasting at a time of radical change".

A crisis that exists mainly in the mind of government ministers and the BBC's commercial rivals. Plus, of course, Ofcom - which piously proclaims itself "committed to maintaining a strong BBC".

The regulator's latest proposal is to salami-slice the BBC's licence fee - compulsorily levied on TV-set owners by the government - diverting a percentage of this to the BBC's rivals to spend on "public service" web and TV ventures.

This "committment" to a "strong" BBC is one of a number of proposals, part of an Ofcom study, which will feed into a government review of the overall media sector and, possibly, new legislation.

Says a spokesman for the regulator: "In its review of public service broadcasting, Ofcom remains entirely flexible concerning any future funding arrangements for this important [public service] component of British broadcasting."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff