Commercial Broadcasters Unite Over BBC Licence Fee

02 June 2006

The orchestrated campaign among commercial media owners to oppose the BBC's bid for a substantial increase in its licence fee has reached fever pitch, prompting some newspaper commentators to urge BBC supporters to support its case with similar vigour.

The anti-brigade's opposition this week resulted in a joint letter to the Blair administration's culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell, expressing concern that any substantial increase will endanger the commercial sector.

The letter signed by the top executives of the Independent Television Companies Association, the Satellite and Cable Broadcasters' Association and the Commercial Radio Broadcasters' Association, argues that competition will be distorted if the [BBC] "has coffers awash with funding to invest in new technology projects and push up the prices of shows and the big media personalities".

It also expressed alarm that the "collective disquiet at the BBC licence fee bid is perhaps not fully appreciated".

The letter continues: "If the Government was to accept the BBC's bid for an increased licence fee, even if at a reduced level, it would signal a disregard for the wealth-generating importance of commercial broadcasters and the social imperative of a plurality of quality content television.

"Our ability to contribute to a balanced broadcasting ecology will be undermined if even greater public funding enables the BBC to increase its dominance across all platforms whilst driving up the cost of content for all broadcasters, both of which will be the outcome of yet another RPI plus [increase in excess of the government's Retail Price Index] settlement."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff