Magazine article Marketing

Why the Debate on BBC's Digital Future Is Still Far from Over

Magazine article Marketing

Why the Debate on BBC's Digital Future Is Still Far from Over

Article excerpt

No surprises last week when the government effectively consigned to the bin the key recommendation on the future funding of the BBC, made by the Davies report last August.

Economist Gavyn Davies and his panel had come up with a proposal for a separate digital licence fee to be paid by multi-channel homes, which would help support the BBC's digital ambitions. It was immediately dubbed a 'digital poll tax' by commercial broadcasters, who, in an impressive show of combined force, lobbied the government hard against such a move. Their argument was simple: they had invested billions in developing digital TV in a commercial, competitive environment. Now their customers were going to face another compulsory charge to support channels they did not even necessarily watch. The move, they said, would set back the take-up of digital by several years.

Of course, their claims were exaggerated for effect, but the core of their complaint was valid. The Davies report was flawed because its brief was not to look at the public service role of the BBC, just its future funding. He could not, therefore, interrogate issues around the BBC's spending patterns, or the development of channels such as News 24, BBC Choice, or a planned children's channel.

The government opted for the politically and commercially correct decision to veto plans for a digital charge. Instead, the licence fee will rise by [pounds]3 to [pounds]104 from April, and then by 1. …

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