Upper House Says Parliament Should Set BBC Licence Fee

13 June 2006

LONDON - The House of Lords, Britain's unelected upper chamber, last week urged the government to allow parliament - rather than "unchecked power" of ministers - to decide the amount of the BBC's licence fee.

In a critical letter to culture, media and sport secretary, Tessa Jowell, an all-party Lords committee says there is a "democratic deficit" in the way the licence fee and the BBC's charter are determined.

According to committee's chairman, the former cabinet minister Lord Norman Fowler: "The BBC now receives over £3 billion ($5.5bn; €4.4bn) from the public. On the basis of the BBC's bid, this will rise to £4bn in the next seven years ... The way this bid is scrutinised is totally inadequate."

The committee points out that the present decision-making procedure is at odds with the government's own green paper on the subject, titled A Strong BBC, Independent of Government.