Celebs support BBC funding

Move counters critical gov't report

LONDON — A who’s who of British culture have banded together to call for greater funding for the BBC — a move intended to counter a recent parliamentary report severely criticizing the pubcaster (Daily Variety, Dec. 21).

In an appeal to culture secretary Chris Smith, celebrities such as David Attenborough, Judi Dench, Rowan Atkinson, Billy Connolly, Nigel Hawthorne and Michael Palin have backed the BBC’s case for increased funding for its digital services.

Decision imminent

Smith is due to decide whether the BBC will get more money next month, in particular a $38 license fee for digital TV viewers on top of the current $161 annual tax. The fee provides the BBC with its $3.5 billion annual budget.

In an open letter, the celebs said, “We believe that the fundamental goals of the BBC — to nurture creativity of every kind, to promote public understanding and learning, to draw individuals and communities into the national debate — will be more, not less, important in the digital world.”

The report from the House of Commons media select committee, however, not only rejected an increase in funds but questioned the legitimacy of the BBC’s digital services, such as BBC News 24, which has an annual budget of $96 million but comparatively low ratings.

Meanwhile, BBC director general designate Greg Dyke is reportedly planning a major overhaul of the corporation’s structure.

Big redo considered

Dyke, who replaces outgoing director general John Birt in April, is understood to be considering a plan to replace the BBC’s massive broadcast, production and news divisions with an array of scaled-back, vertically integrated divisions responsible for areas such as education, sport, entertainment and news.

A review of the broadcast operation was already under way, but it appears likely that this effort will be broadened. Dyke, the former chief exec of Pearson Television, is known to dislike excessive bureaucracy.

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