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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
BBC battles to keep whole TV fee
The BBC is due to get a new charter at the start of 2007
The BBC has urged the government not to give other broadcasters a slice of the licence fee when deciding how the corporation should be run and funded.

The BBC's board of governors said such a move would harm the organisation's relationship with its audiences.

But the BBC did accept proposals by politicians to replace the board of governors with a BBC Trust.

The corporation was responding to the government Green Paper on the BBC, which set out plans for its future.

The BBC's current charter, setting out the corporation's role, functions and structure, is due to expire at the end of 2006.

'Not good news'

The BBC's comments will help the government decide what should be in the new charter.

BBC chairman Michael Grade said the governors welcomed the decision to grant a new charter for 10 years with continued licence fee funding.

But he said debate on alternative ways of funding the BBC, including sharing or "top slicing" the licence fee, should be put off until every home in Britain has switched to digital TV.

Mr Grade said "top-slicing" would threaten the political independence of the BBC.

"Using the licence fee to solve a theoretical future deficit in public service broadcasting provision is a thoroughly bad idea. Not good news for viewers and listeners," he said.

'Agile and flexible'

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell wants to start a debate about alternative means of funding several years before the 2016 charter renewal.

But Mr Grade added that changes to the BBC's 78-year-old governance system would increase public confidence.

He said the new trustees should be chosen for skills and expertise rather than their roles in special interest groups - the exception being a trustee representing each devolved nation.

Mr Grade also said it was vital the BBC remained "agile and flexible" in digital radio, digital satellite, mobile platforms, on-demand delivery via broadband and other technological changes.

BBC director general Mark Thompson said the greatest creative challenges facing the BBC was the amount of choice the public now has on TV and radio.

He said the BBC had to change and squeeze every drop of value out of the licence fee to deliver the vision outlined in the Green Paper.

'Radical change'

"It will not be possible to deliver the BBC we've talked about without quite radical change," he said.

"In the end, our first duty is to secure a strong and independent BBC in the very different, digital environment of the future.

"The BBC's unique status and licence fee funding means that we can do it, not just for early adopters or subscribers or any other privileged group - but for everyone."

The BBC's response to the Green Paper came a day after many staff went on strike in protest at Mr Thompson's proposals to cut 3,780 jobs.

A White Paper on the new charter - a final proposal document - is to be published in late 2005 or early 2006.

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