Rivals blast BBC digital tax

Commercial broadcasters protest 'illegal state aid'

LONDON — The BBC is facing a legal battle from the U.K.’s commercial broadcasters to block proposals for a digital TV license fee.

BSkyB, Carlton and Granada believe that the introduction of a levy to fund the British Broadcasting Corp.’s digital operations would constitute illegal state aid under European law.

Digital dough

An independent panel last week recommended that digital TV viewers should pay an extra $38 a year on top of an existing $162 license fee, which is the BBC’s main source of funding. This would be used to finance the pubcaster’s new digital TV and Internet services.

Commercial players are arguing that the extra fee merely will discourage viewers from making the leap into digital.

The private broadcasters are threatening to refer the case to the European Commission if the U.K. government follows through with the proposal.

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