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August 17, 2009

Government considers legal limit on licence fee top-slice

By conrad

The Government is considering a legal limit on any possible “top-slicing” of the BBC’s licence fee to help fund news programming on ITV, in an apparent attempt to placate resistance from the BBC and the BBC Trust towards the concept of sharing the licence fee.

According to The Guardian, a “government insider” has said that the potential 3.5% “top-slice” could include a legal mechanism that prevents future Governments from increasing the allocation: however no new legislation would be needed to make funding available for public service programming on non-BBC networks in this way.

“We don’t need to put top slicing in the bill, but we could come up with some mechanism to protect the 3.5% [of the licence fee]. Our position has always been that we think top-slicing is a really good idea because it gets money into local news consortia.”

The Digital Britain consultation into top slicing is due to conclude in September. The digital economy bill, in which a range of measures will be formally introduced to parliament, will not be officially unveiled until the Queen’s Speech in November.

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