BBC licence fee ‘could be shared’

The BBC could be forced to share part of the TV licence fee with its commercial rivals under government plans to be announced on Tuesday.

The Digital Britain report will suggest ways to help organisations such as Channel 4 cope with the impact of the internet, according to BBC Online.

Minister for Communications Lord Carter started work on a plan in October 2008, aimed at bringing broadband internet to the entire country by 2012.

And writing in the Times newspaper on Tuesday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown reaffirmed his commitment to that ‘transformation’.

He said: “Digital Britain cannot be a two-tier Britain – with those who can take full advantage of being online and those who can’t.”

But as local newspapers and TV stations continue to suffer losses at the hands of the internet, the Digital Britain report will also tackle threats posed by new technology.

“We also need to help Channel 4 to secure its future… it now requires long-term stability to develop as a truly global player,” Brown said.

The BBC’s media correspondent Torin Douglas said Lord Carter believed the licence fee could be a possible answer to the woes of commercial broadcasters.

More than £100 million a year has been earmarked to help elderly people switch to digital TV and any money left over could help pay for wider broadband access or local news on ITV.

But the BBC Trust said that any money left over from the switch might be better returned to licence-payers.

The announcement on Digital Britain will be made in Parliament on Tuesday.

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