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Licence fee could fall after digital switchover.

THE government could lower the licence fee in 2013, the chairman of broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has said.

The Corporation is getting pounds 800m of licence fee money to pay for the costs of digital switchover. By 2013 when the switchover process is complete, money will no longer be needed for that purpose, Lord David Currie said.

A new licence fee settlement is due in 2013, and at current levels there could be a surplus, he suggested.

"From 2013, switchover will have been completed and the annual expenditure that the pounds 800m funded will no longer be incurred," he said.

"There is thus a switchover surplus.

Government and Parliament have three choices at that stage.

"They could reduce the pounds and pence figure in the 2013 statutory order - in effect giving the surplus back to every household in Britain through a lower licence fee. They could put the money into the BBC's baseline for the BBC to spend as it sees fit, for example on new BBC services. They could apply it to another purpose, including the funding of public service content by other organisations."

He also questioned whether the licence fee provided a "unique link" between viewers and the BBC. According to research, 80% think the licence fee funds TV programmes on BBC1 and BBC2 alone, he said.

"For now the 'unique link' appears to be more an article of faith than an evidenced reality," he added.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 18, 2008
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