Viewers 'should not fund digital'


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May 24, 2005
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Viewers 'should not fund digital'

Licence fee payers should not foot the bill for the switchover to digital TV, the House of Lords has heard.


The BBC already promotes its digital services

BBC bosses asked for £1.6bn to help spearhead the switchover, but Tory Lord Fowler said a potential rise of the fee to more than £180 was "unacceptable".

He said the changes could be funded with money raised by selling analogue frequencies to phone companies.

The culture department said details of the BBC's digital TV role and the cost of it were still under discussion.

The Lords were debating the findings of a committee, chaired by ex-Cabinet minister Lord Fowler, which criticised the government's plans for the BBC.

Public service

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has charged the corporation with ensuring everyone can receive digital television services before analogue switch-off, scheduled for between 2008 and 2012.

[The government] has asked the BBC to implement and pay for schemes that will ensure no-one is left behind

Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Lord Fowler said it was wrong to make the BBC bear the cost.

But a spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the government believed it an "essential part" of the BBC's public service role to ensure everybody could receive digital TV.

"[The government] has therefore asked the BBC to implement and pay for schemes that will ensure no-one is left behind," she said.

She added ministers "do not yet have a clear picture of final figures".

The debate came as broadcast watchdog Ofcom has revealed digital TV is watched in nearly two thirds of UK homes.

The number watching digital TV has risen to 65.9% - representing 16.5 million households. This was an increase of 2.9% since June.

Digital TV is accessed through existing TV aerials, or through satellite, cable and television-over-broadband services.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/12/09 16:27:11 GMT