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Government considers alternatives to top slicing

17 November 2009

The UK government is to consider alternative ways to pay for its proposals on local TV news, following a campign to prevent top-slicing of the BBC license fee. A report released by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on Monday says that a final decision on funding will not be taken until after pilots of its plans have taken place.

The government had been pushing hard for its proposed news consortia to be paid for by marking out a specific percentage of the TV licence fee, regardless of at what level it may be set. The NUJ has welcomed the decision.

The NUJ, along with other unions and campaign groups, have voiced concern that such a move would undermine the BBC. They have been campaigning for the government to properly investigate alternative funding models, such as spectrum tax and industry levies.

While officials still say that their preferred option is to use licence fee cash, Monday's report finally recognises that there are alternative "credible options". The report gives a commitment to consider other options before making a final decision on funding.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, said:

"While the government still seems intent on using licence fee money to pay for its plans, the commitment that it won't push ahead right now with a potentially disastrous policy is a positive step.
"Finally officials have recognised that other credible funding options exist and they now have time to properly investigate how those might work. We'll continue to campaign to ensure that the future of news on all channels is secured in a way that will bring fresh money into broadcasting without undermining the BBC."

Tags: , television, bbc, public service broadcasting, bbc licence fee, top-slicing, broadcasting, news consortia, government uk, levies, spectrum tax, funding