Rivals Push for Shorter, 'Fairer' Licence Period for BBC

18 June 2004

Almost with one voice, rivals of state broadcaster the BBC have spoken against continuing its ten-year Royal Charter period, due for renewal in 2006.

Another decade of guaranteed licence income is viewed as overlong, particularly in the light of today's fast-moving technology and the UK government's plans to switch off the analogue TV signal in 2010.

The opinions of commercial media groups are shared by the Institute of Practitioners of Advertising, which regards the "ten years' grace between charters [as] extremely generous".

The Commercial Radio Companies Association agrees, arguing for the licence review to be more frequent: "new arrangements should either be for a short, say five-year, period only or should be in the hands of an external regulator with flexibility to change in line with communication developments."

A five-year probationary renewal is also deemed acceptable by many music industry, internet and radio bodies. BBC staff union BECTU, however, has other ideas, and is backed by an unlikely source. It requests the ten-year guarantee period to continue – a view surprisingly shared by rival broadcaster ITV.

ITV, in a statement to the committee investigating the BBC's future, approves the stability of the current system and believes the BBC should be provided "with sufficient time and certainty to implement the changes to funding, regulation, governance and remit that we hope will result in this charter review process".

NewCorp-controlled broadcaster BSkyB did not submit comments to the parliamentary committee -- although few within the Blair adminstration are unaware of Rupert Murdoch's opinions on the subject.

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff