U.K. holds firm on TV license fee plan

Decision to be made after government-select committee report

LONDON — The U.K. government has denied persistent reports that it intends to scrap plans for a $40 annual digital TV license fee for the BBC.

The tax, recommended by a recent government-commissioned report, would be added onto the existing $168 fee for digital viewers, the idea being that the BBC needs the money to compete effectively in the digital realm.

Instead, it is suggested, the government intends to substantially boost the cost of the license overall and free up over $600 million to subsidize licenses for pensioners. Rival broadcasters, especially satcaster BSkyB, have strongly opposed a separate digital license.

A spokesman at the department of culture, media and sport, however, insisted to Daily Variety that no decision has been made and none would be forthcoming until after a public consultation and government-select committee report.

Moreover, the time for an announcement has likely been pushed to next year rather than the end of this year.

The spokesman suggested that some in the British media may have an agenda in spreading disinformation on the issue. The Times, which is owned by News Corp. (which also controls BSkyB), has been the most expansive in its reporting on the subject.

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