Tories back ‘top-slicing’ of licence fee

The BBC should be forced to share the licence fee, the Conservative have said.

The party has come out in favour of ‘top-slicing’ the licence fee, with some revenue being handed to other broadcasters to develop key services such as children’s television and current affairs.

The “vast bulk” of the £3.2 billion raised by the licence fee would still go to the BBC, the Conservatives’ latest paper on broadcasting said.

Past plans to ‘top-slice’ the licence fee have been fiercely opposed by the BBC, which argues it would dilute the quality of their broadcasting.

But shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for a new public service broadcasting commission to be formed to more-fairly distribute revenue from the licence fee.

“We need structures that will maintain the creative diversity that has made British public service broadcasting famous throughout the world,” he argued.

“It is time to face up to the future or we risk losing an essential part of our culture.”

The Conservative paper states: “Other organisations should only be able to bid for licence fee money in specific areas where plurality of provision [is] lacking … with the BBC continuing to receive the vast bulk of the licence fee.”

It also says the BBC must reduce its website dominance or risk crowding out innovation.

The paper also backs local television, arguing it should be given greater prominence by policy makers.

Former culture secretary James Purnell also said ‘top-slicing’ should be considered, before he was moved to the Department of Work and Pensions.

He said it would be “perverse” not to ask whether the licence fee should be shared with other broadcasters.