Calls to tax the two publicly-owned British TV groups, the BBC and Channel 4, for use of the airwave spectrum have drawn an angry response from the broadcasters.

Unlike terrestrial rivals ITV and Channel 5, the duo are exempt from ‘spectrum tax’ because they have greater obligations to carry public service programming.

However, a recent report by academic Martin Cave for the Department of Trade and Industry suggests the BBC and Channel 4 should be charged to promote more efficient use of spectrum.

Both broadcasters warned the government this week that such a tax posed a serious threat to programme quality. Channel 4 chairman Vanni Treves said the station – which would face charges of up to £40 million ($58m; €62m) – would siphon the cash from the programming budget.

The BBC could pay around £200m for its spectrum, around 10% of its licence fee revenues. However, charging the Beeb in this way could prompt arguments that public funding should be not simply be diverted into the Treasury’s coffers.

The DTI is yet to make a decision concerning the Cave report. It is expected in July.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff