The chairman of British television group Granada Media is calling on the government to divert a substantial slice of the licence fee (the tax on TV owners that funds the British Broadcasting Corporation) to the commercial TV sector.

Granada, the leading shareholder in ad-funded network ITV, pulls in around £1.7 billion ($2.8bn; €2.6bn) a year in revenues, but Allen is eyeing a share of the £2.4bn takings from the fee – the first time an ITV executive has voiced such sentiments.

“I believe the public service elements of the BBC should continue to be funded by the licence fee,” he told the Royal Television Society. “However, the government should consider top-slicing 10% of the licence fee and earmark that £250m or so for new, additional public service programming on commercial channels”

Such a scheme, Allen added, could be overseen by forthcoming communications regulator Ofcom. “With its duty to secure a balanced diversity of high quality TV in the UK, [Ofcom] seems an ideal body to administer such a public service fund.”

The BBC has come under fire recently from the commercial sector for allegedly moving away from its public service remit in pursuit of ratings.

“ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 in the last year, we've all been doing our public service best to shame the BBC into doing what it was set up to do,” blasted the Granada boss.

Allen’s comments are well-timed. Ministers last month announced a wholesale review of the BBC’s activities (including its) in the run-up to the renewal of its charter in 2006 [WAMN: 16-Jan-03].

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff