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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Public 'support licence fee rise'
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell has confirmed the licence fee will remain till 2016
The public is willing to pay an extra 31 a year for the BBC licence fee, according to a report commissioned by the government.

Research found people would pay an average of 162.66 for the BBC's services up to 2017.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell is expected to say in a speech that people value the BBC but "won't hand over a blank cheque".

The BBC said that the licence fee would reach 154.50 by 2013.

But the parliamentary team reviewing the future of the BBC has said that figure could be as high as 180.

This research does not justify an over-generous licence fee settlement
Hugo Swire
Shadow Culture Secretary
The current licence fee is 131.50 for a colour television and 44 for a black and white set.

Ms Jowell is due to address the Royal Television Society later on Thursday.

'More choice'

While those surveyed agreed they would pay more for the BBC's current and future services, such as more local news, 75% said they would prefer planned new BBC services to be funded by subscription while keeping the licence fee at its current level.

"People want to have more of a say in the future of the BBC. They want more choice over what they pay. They want more control over what services they receive," Ms Jowell is expected to tell the society.

BBC iMP
The BBC has been testing an online television service

The survey, compiled by the Work Foundation, questioned nearly 7000 people for the report which was commissioned by the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS).

The report also found that of the BBC's proposed services, new digital and online learning for 14 to 18-year-olds was most popular, with 67.7% in favour.

A free-to-air satellite service, more local news and improved quality programming were also popular among those surveyed.

Those willing to pay most to fund the BBC - between 15 and 31 a month as opposed to the 11 it currently costs - were more likely to be well-educated and earn over 50,000 a year.

Most of those surveyed agreed that the "BBC makes a moderate contribution to British life".

The culture secretary has already confirmed the licence fee will remain until 2016, but the government has yet to decide how much money it will get during the period of the next charter.

Decision expected

The corporation has asked for an increase of 2.3% above inflation to boost its programmes and digital services.

But Ms Jowell has said the BBC will not get its full amount, while commercial rivals such as ITV have opposed its request for more money.

The new licence fee settlement is expected to be announced in October, according to reports.

"This research will be considered together with the other evidence collected as part of this process when setting the future level of the licence fee," a DCMS spokeswoman told the BBC.

"We will also take into account the BBC's place in the market and a duty to ensure licence fee payers get value for money," she added.

'Extra burden'

Shadow Culture Secretary Hugo Swire said the research "does not justify an over-generous licence fee settlement, particularly because of the extra burden it would impose on the poorest households".

"It's all very well asking people how much they would theoretically be willing to pay, but the real question is what will it cost for the BBC to meet its public service requirements."

The Conservative Party has called for greater scrutiny of the BBC's spending plans, which form the basis of its proposal for a rise in the licence fee.

"Not only have two reports called the BBC's calculations into question, but we now know that the move to Manchester will cost substantially less than predicted," said Mr Swire.

The current licence fee agreement - which sees the fee rise by 1.5% above inflation every year - will expire in April 2007.




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