Battle over licensing fee intensifies

The battle to force the BBC to share its license fee has intensified as Blighty media minister Ben Bradshaw accused the pubcaster of “wrong-headed” leadership over the issue.

The news comes as profits at commercial arm BBC Worldwide slumped 27% to £86 million ($140 million) for the year ending in March. That’s despite the fact that revenue broke through the £1 billion ($1.6 billion) barrier for the first time.

Bradshaw, the former BBC foreign correspondent appointed last month as secretary of state for the Dept. of Culture, Media and Sport, claimed the pubcaster’s leadership has lost the confidence of senior staff.

He said the opposition of toppers Michael Lyons and Mark Thompson to sharing license fee coin (paid by all U.K. homes with a TV) with cash-strapped commercial rivals to fund their public broadcasting service requirements — such as local news — was misguided and “ultimately self defeating.”

His comments came in an interview with the Financial Times that coincided with the publication of the BBC’s annual report on Tuesday. Speaking at the BBC report’s launch, Lyons, who chairs governing body the BBC Trust, repeated his opposition to sharing the fee, first proposed in the government’s Digital Britain report.

He said, “You run the risk of the license fee becoming a back pocket for government, used to fund an increasing range of activities with damage to accountability, eventually the independence of the BBC, and run the risk of a higher license fee in the future.”

Lyons also announced that bonuses for the 10 most senior execs were being suspended indefinitely.

There is huge public anger over what is perceived as the high salaries paid to the execs, not least the remuneration given to director general Thompson, who earned $1.36 million last year, according to the annual report.

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