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BBC denies plan in place to double licence fee for independent Scots

By William Turvill

The BBC has stood by its position of not reporting the impact that Scottish independence would have on its services.

It comes after The Guardian today reported that the corporation had kept secret an internal study revealing that a Yes vote would mean Scots wanting to keep the BBC's services would face a doubling of the licence fee.

The BBC appeared to deny the existence of the report, with a spokesman saying the claim that "there's some sort of explosive report dating back three years" was "nonsense".

Earlier this week, speaking at the Royal Televsion Society conference in London, the BBC's director of strategy and digital James Purnell said that no contingency plans were in place for a Yes vote win in next week's referendum. He said that this was because it would make it "very, very difficult for us to remain open-minded".

This is despite the fact that it has been claimed by former BBC director general John Birt's that Scottish independence would lead to a ten per cent loss in the BBC's income.

Interviewing Purnell on stage at the RTS conference, BBC Radio 4's Media Show presenter Steve Hewlett suggested that viewers have been "woefully uninformed" on this aspect of the Scottish referendum.

Hewlett said the omission of information could see the BBC accused of having “played along with the ‘yes’ campaign”.

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Also speaking at the RTS conference in London this week, current Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said that an independent Scotland would lose the BBC altogether.

He told delegates: "If you decide to leave the United Kingdom then you are leaving the institutions of the United Kingdom behind, and clearly one of those… institutions is the BBC."

Despite Purnell's assertion that no contingency plans are in place for an independent Scotland, The Guardian today reports that “sources with close knowledge of the matter” say a BBC paper, which was drawn up three years ago, compared the amount Scottish viewers paid to the licence fee with the value of the services received.

The paper reports today that the figures “suggested raising the annual licence fee paid in Scotland to almost £300” from the current £145.50 a year.

Former Labour culture secretary and BBC journalist Ben Bradshaw told The Guardian: "The future of the BBC in Scotland and the level of the licence fee was raised with me on the doorstep when I was campaigning in Scotland this week… If Scots wish to keep a Scottish BBC or something like it in the event of independence they will lose the BBC's economy of scale and will face paying much more if they wish to keep quality public service broadcasting."

A BBC spokesperson told the paper that it would be “nonsense” to suggest there is a thee-year-old “explosive” report. They said: "Last year we published a comprehensive set of facts and figures about the BBC in Scotland and made it clear we would not be entering into any public or private discussions about the future or the shape and nature of BBC services after the referendum until that referendum has taken place."

A spokesman told Press Gazette: "As we have consistently stated we have done no planning about the future of BBC services after the referendum, including any calculations about the level of a licence fee."

The spokesman declined to tell Press Gazette where and how any decisions regarding the BBC in the event of a Yes vote would be made. They said: “We will not enter into any public or private discussions about the future or the shape and nature of our services after the referendum until that referendum has taken place. To do so might compromise perceptions of the impartiality and balance of our coverage.”

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