LONDON: British consumers are willing to pay more for BBC television services than the state-funded broadcaster itself is requesting, according to new research.

The study, commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, reveals viewers were on average prepared to pay £162.66 ($306.30; €241.15) a year at today's prices by 2017, compared with the current licence fee of £131.50. This was above the BBC's own bid, which would equate to a £154 licence fee at current prices.

Secretary of State Tessa Jowell is expected to pronounce in November the level of the BBC's funding for the next ten years as the corporation's charter - or public service remit - is renewed.

She told the BBC earlier this year that it could forget its proposed formula for increasing the licence fee: current fee + inflation + 2.3% [WARC News: 21-Apr-06].

And in a speech in London last week she conceded that although UK viewers value the BBC they won't "hand over a blank check".

It seems increasingly likely, however, that the corporation will receive more than an inflation-linked raise.

The Work Foundation survey questioned nearly 7,000 people. It found they would pay more for the BBC's current and future services, such as more local news, but 75% said they preferred new services to be funded by subscription while keeping the licence fee pegged.

Those willing to pay most to fund the BBC - between £15 and £31 a month as opposed to the £11 it currently costs - were those who could afford it most, well-educated £50k-a-year earners.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff