Page last updated at 10:14 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 11:14 UK

TV licence fee 'could be shared'

ITV's News At Ten
News programmes could benefit from new revenue

Some of the licence fee could be given to commercial broadcasters, media regulator Ofcom has suggested.

The plan would help the BBC's rivals pay for public service programming, such as news and children's shows.

Other suggestions in Ofcom's review of public broadcasting include more direct funding from the government and a range of levies on the TV industry.

The body said ITV, Channel 4 and Five were struggling to finance their public service programming.

There has been a 25% drop in spending in these areas over the last five years.

Licence fee
Changing broadcasting regulations to raise revenue
Levies in the broadcasting industry

Audiences, Ofcom said, still wanted high quality public service broadcasts from a variety of sources.

The regulator warned that the BBC could become the only provider of regional news and children's shows in particular, which would be detrimental to broadcasting as a whole.

And the financial futures of ITV and Channel 4 could become uncertain, it added.

New model

One way it suggested to safeguard competition was to give Channel 4 a bigger role or let commercial broadcasters bid for funding.

But Ofcom added that if this money came from the existing licence fee, which generates 3.2bn per year, it could damage the BBC.

A new model for broadcasting should be in place by 2011 to safeguard the future of public service broadcasting, the body said.

All channels continue to provide public service broadcasting - but with extra funding or reduced commitments for commercial broadcasters
Only the BBC provides PSB and other channels go purely commercial
BBC and Channel 4 provide PSB with other channels bidding for funding
Competitive funding for an extended range of broadcasters

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: "Public service broadcasting is at a crossroads.

"Viewers still want a mix of high quality UK-made content, but the traditional television model is not enough to meet all their needs."

"Today's proposals outline options for a securely-funded PSB [public service broadcasting] future. Now is the time for a wide-ranging debate looking carefully and dispassionately at all the options."

Mr Richards told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the BBC remained the "cornerstone" of PSB and a variety of suggestions were being put forward.

He also suggested licence fee money currently used to finance the digital switchover could be redirected into PSB once the process was completed in 2012.

Public service broadcasts are those that increase the audience's understanding of the world and give them a variety of viewpoints through a range of programming, he said.

The BBC has said it will launch a public debate about the future of PSB before making its own submission to Ofcom's review.

Sir David Attenborough and Stephen Fry will deliver lectures about what public service broadcasting delivers to the UK, while a series of debates with licence fee payers will take place.

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