BBC Future in Peril

Chris Forrester

Baron Stephen Carter of Barnes, one of the British government's unelected ministers, and late of Virgin Media's predecessor NTL, is reported to be recommending the ‘top slicing' of the BBC licence fee in his ‘Digital Britain' report.

The report is being delivered to the Government tomorrow (Tuesday). Carter has confirmed that he will then resign from his job.

Lord Carter headed up NTL in 2000 and supervised its Chapter 11 bankruptcy with record indebtedness of £12 billion in 2002. He famously stated that he told shareholders "nine-tenths bullshit and one tenth selected facts". One can only hope he has done better with his Digital Britain study. Carter ran UK telecoms regulator Ofcom from 2003-2006, worked at Brunswick Media 2006 before joining Gordon Brown's government in January 2008.

Lord Carter's White Paper is understood to be recommending that £100m of the BBC's income be used to pay rival broadcasters in order that they may keep funding news transmissions. The BBC gets a total of £3.6bn in public funding.

Other proposals, beyond the £100m, would see the BBC forced to cooperate financially with Channel 4, probably with some sort of relationship with the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide. The report will be published later this week.

The proposals are likely to be fought ‘tooth and nail' by the BBC, and its many supporters. The government is also going to have to get into top gear if it is to mount a Bill to get the White Paper adopted in the upcoming parliamentary year.

Not financially contentious but likely to face fierce opposition from the public is a proposal to switch off analogue radio broadcasting sooner than the current 2017-2020 date.