ITV rejects BBC digital licence levy

ITV has rejected proposals for a digital licence fee contained in the Gavyn Davies report into BBC funding in its formal submission to culture secretary Chris Smith.

The funding review panel recommended a &£24 levy for people who take up digital services, greater scrutiny of the corporation’s spending and partial privatisation of some parts of the organisation.

Richard Eyre, ITV’s outgoing chief executive, says: “We reject the panel’s proposal to introduce a digital licence fee because we believe there is scope for more investment on programmes and services for the benefit of the public from within the BBC’s existing budget.”

He says ITV welcomes Smith’s announcement that he will appoint independent consultants to examine the BBC’s financial projections before coming to a decision on whether the BBC needs more funding. The BBC, which has an annual income of &£2.2bn, says it needs an extra &£650m.

Eyre says: “A strong BBC is vital not only for viewers but for British broadcasting as a whole. The benefits of the licence fee as a universal funding mechanism paid by everybody remain undiminished.”

But he stressed that the licence fee depends on public concensus, and that a case had not been made for extra digital funding.

The ITV shareholders have already attacked the proposed digital supplement as a “digital poll tax” that will discourage take-up of new services. Two of the ITV companies, Carlton and Granada, are joint owners of digital broadcaster ONdigital.

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