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Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
BBC internet fee 'a possibility'
BBC director of new media Ashley Highfield
Highfield: In charge of BBC interactive services
The BBC has said a "pay-per-programme" plan for internet broadcasting could be imposed to meet the cost of putting TV shows on the internet, but it is unlikely to happen this decade.


If all the BBC's content was streamed on the web, it would cost several billions of pounds

Ashley Highfield
A spokeswoman admitted it is "one possible way" of meeting rising costs and government demands for raising money through commercial activities and savings.

But the plan, outlined by BBC director of new media Ashley Highfield, is just one of many ideas aired, she said.

Mr Highfield said viewers who make heavy use of internet broadcasting when it becomes more common in the future may be asked to pay an extra fee on top of the existing annual licence fee.

BBC Online
BBC programmes could be broadcast over the web
"If all the BBC's content was streamed on the web, it would cost several billions of pounds," Mr Highfield told the Financial Times newspaper.

The licence fee would guarantee viewers access to a certain amount of programmes - but if they wanted to watch more, they would pay for it, he said.

News and education programmes would be kept free.

"We, like all broadcasters, have got to face the fact that costs for services are rising," a BBC spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

"Ashley Highfield is just suggesting a few ideas as to how we might meet those challenges. He is just talking hypothetically about some ideas he has had, as opposed to what the BBC's current stance on the issue is."

Mr Highfield said the idea would not be an option when the licence fee next comes up for renewal in 2006 - but could be on the table by 2011.

But the BBC must first raise 1.1bn by 2006 to satisfy the government.

'Encouraged'

The spokeswoman said: "We've also got to raise that extra money as set by the government in the licence fee settlement, so obviously there are going to be ongoing discussions as to how we're going to do that.

"It is encouraged by the director general [that] people can voice those ideas and we can hold full discussions at this stage about how we can take it forward."

Examples of online broadcasts made by the BBC so far include the Derby horse race last month, and full coverage of the African solar eclipse.

Next week the BBC is broadcasting a one-off Doctor Who audio drama, Death Comes To Time, which will only be available online.

Mr Highfield, 35, is in charge of all interactive services including BBC Online and Interactive TV.

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