Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 12:53 UK

Tories plan to share licence fee

Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron
Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt (r) called for diversity

The BBC could share the licence fee with commercial rivals, including ITV and Channel 4, under proposals detailed by the Conservatives.

A proportion of the fund, worth 3.2bn each year, would be used to bolster services including news programming.

The Tories argue that strengthened competition in key areas would "help keep the BBC on its toes".

BBC director general Mark Thompson has said that licence fee-sharing would would weaken the corporation.

The Conservative paper also stated that encouraging competition in programme-making "has been vital in raising standards across British broadcasting".

'Raise the bar'

"When Channel 4, ITV and Sky are at their best they raise the bar for the BBC. Without them, the BBC will atrophy," it added.

The proposals have yet to produce any figures on how the licence fee could be diverted to other broadcasters.

But it is expected that other organisations would have to bid for funding, with other areas including children's programming being given priority.

Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We need structures that will maintain the creative diversity that has made British public service broadcasting famous throughout the world.

"It is time to face up to the future or we risk losing an essential part of our culture," he added.

Last year, both ITV and BBC bosses agreed that they did not want the distribution of the licence fee to be shaken up.

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade said that he did not want to take any of the funding.

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