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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Tories ponder BBC's future
BBC TV Centre
Tories are 'open-minded' about BBC funding

The Tories have pledged to rule nothing in and nothing out when it comes to pondering how the BBC should be financed in the future.

Culture spokesman John Whittingdale told BBC News Online that it was difficult to justify the current arrangement of the licence fee which he said faced growing public opposition.

He said that he had a "wholly open mind about the best way to finance the BBC" and indicated he believed the corporation has strayed too much from it public service broadcasting remit.

"I see the BBC's raison d'etre as a public service broadcaster - it should not be replicating a large amount of the output seen on other channels."

Mr Whittingdale refused to be drawn into just how he thought a new area like BBC News Online should be treated.

But he said he objected to the compulsory way the BBC was funded, saying revenues of 2.5bn raised by the licence fee were "an extremely large amount of public money".

Reform?

"I would expect that we would come forward with proposals that certainly could include the idea of commercials or even a direct Treasury grant. We are ruling nothing in and nothing out."

John Whittingdale
Tories may suggest the BBC has commercial breaks

The Tory spokesman's comments leaves the door open to everything from part-privatisation, subscriptions to the BBC's digital programmes and the direct grant method.

Mr Whittingdale said he welcomed the announcement by the government last year of a review of the way the BBC operates.

A major review of programmes prior to the renewal of the BBC's charter in 2006 is to be held.

The BBC has been told its programmes must justify the licence fee it charges viewers if its charter is to be renewed.

A BBC spokesman said: "The alternatives to the licence fee will no doubt be explored as part of the debate and review around renewal of the BBC's charter in 2006."

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said the corporation would face a "tough review" of the level of funding it receives and the choice of programming it puts out.




SEE ALSO:
John Whittingdale
21 Oct 02  |  Politics
BBC to undergo government review
16 Jan 03  |  Entertainment



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