BBC accused of digital TV tax

Commercial TV providers joined forces yesterday to attack plans to increase the television license fee to incorporate the BBC's digital broadcasting services.

Senior digital, satellite and ITV television executives met yesterday to discuss the proposed £35 increase to the current £101 license fee. They submitted a formal complaint to economist Gavin Davies, who is examining the future funding of the BBC and considering the increase, and agreed to meet regularly to co-ordinate opposition to the proposal.

A British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) spokesperson says: "This is the equivalent of television tax. We did research and found that the biggest obstacle to getting people to use digital TV was the initial coast, so we removed that. Now they want to bring it back, which will push everything backwards. It's very unfair."

The quality of BBC digital programming was also a target of criticism, described as unoriginal and un-watchable.

Others within the digital television industry have defended plans to increase the television license fee to incorporate BBC digital broadcasting.

Fred Thorne, editor of the media industry newsletter New Media TV Strategies, believes the other broadcasting companies are exaggerating and claims the BBC could have an important role in the digital revolution.

"I don't think people really notice that sort of difference in cost anymore," he says. "The BBC also have an unrivalled reputation in public broadcasting, and it is important to have a UK standard bearer."

Thorne also argues that the BBC will undoubtedly have a digital audience. He says: "People tend to migrate to what they know and the BBC are so well established in regular television."