ITV chief blasts BBC demand for licence fee hike

ITV chief executive Charles Allen has added his voice to the detractors damning the BBC’s licence fee demands, following the publication of a report today.

Allen called the Indepen Consulting report – commissioned by ITV – “damning in its conclusions” over the impact of the BBC’s proposed licence fee increase.

“The BBC’s back-of-a-fag-packet figures should come with their own health warning,” says Allen. “The BBC systematically underplays its estimates for savings and efficiencies and overplays its funding requirements. The Government should reject the BBC’s bid and send it back to the drawing board.”

He claims the Government has both a duty to taxpayers to provide value for money, and to the broadcasting sector to prevent the “commercial damage an over-inflated BBC would cause”.

He says the report, published today by Indepen Consulting, shows the proposed licence fee increase exceeds expected inflation and the Treasury forecast for growth in income per household.

The report further says increased funding of the BBC appears, in part, to be fuelling the “super-inflation it was designed to offset”. Staff costs and “unconstrained expansion” of the BBC’s activities would crowd out the commercial sector’s attempts to attract talent and stimulate innovation and investment in new services.

The BBC came under fire from critics and rivals after publishing its “wish list” for the licence fee settlement last year. The settlement, yet to be finalised, will come into force in April 2007.

But some question Allen’s motives, noting he is keen to lobby for his own agenda, such as the abolition of the Contract Rights Renewal (MW September 22, 2005).

The BBC was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

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