Media regulator Ofcom has suggested that some of the BBC’s licence fee could be given to its commercial rivals to safeguard the future of British broadcasting.
Ofcom said that ITV, Channel 4 and Five were struggling to fund their public service programming, such as news and children’s shows.
The body added that TV audiences still wanted high-quality public service programmes from a variety of sources.
But it warned that if the BBC became the only provider of these shows, this would be detrimental to broadcasting as a whole.
One way it suggested to safeguard competition was to give Channel 4 a bigger role or let commercial broadcasters bid for long-term funding to provide public service competition to the BBC.
But Ofcom added that if this money came from the existing licence fee, which generates £3.2bn per year, it could damage the BBC.
Other options would be to make ITV, Channel 4 and Five purely commercial or to pour government funds into these channels to enable them to provide the same public service programming as they do now.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: “Public service broadcasting is at a crossroads.
“Viewers still want a mix of high quality UK-made content, but the traditional television model is not enough to meet all their needs.”
“Today’s proposals outline options for a securely-funded PSB [public service broadcasting] future. Now is the time for a wide-ranging debate looking carefully and dispassionately at all the options.”
The new model would be in place by 2012.