47 per cent UK viewers oppose licence fee hike; report

MUMBAI: A BBC-commissioned report into public attitudes to the licence fee showed 47 per cent of the 2,000 adults questioned said they opposed the principle of the licence fee being increased to help those who could not afford to upgrade to digital TV.

The UK government is due to cease analogue transmission by 2012, when all homes should be able to receive digital output. The proposed terms of the new BBC charter being issued later this year hand the corporation new responsibilities for assisting in this process.

The findings are part of an independent report commissioned by BBC governors. The research indicate that most viewers - if forced - would pay more than they do now for their annual licence. However, they would only be happy to do so if the extra revenue was spent on relevant services, and the standard of the BBC's output did not deterioriate.

The reserach has been undertaken as part of a consultation process over the future of the funding for the corporation, and asked Professor Patrick Barwise of London Business School to gauge licence fee payers' opinions.

According to BBC News, the fee - £131.50 for each household - generated nearly £3 billion of revenue for the corporation in 2004-2005.

The reaction to a rise in the licence fee of £150 by the middle of the next decade - for which the BBC has asked the government - was that the number of people willing to pay for existing services would fall from between 75 and 80 per cent today to nearer 65 to 70 per cent. However, if it proceeded with the proposal, "it won't be the straw that breaks the licence fee's back", Professor Barwise noted.

The survey also suggests the public is broadly in favour of most of the new interactive services being planned by the BBC. These include a media player offering a chance to catch-up with an entire week of programming, which 80 per cent of respondents agreed was interesting and 76 per cent said they would be likely to use.

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