U.K. gov’t may change BBC funding

Media minister hints at TV reforms

LONDON — In his first interview since gaining power, the U.K.’s new media minister has hinted at wide-reaching reforms that could ultimately spell big changes for the BBC.

Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport in Blighty’s new Conservative-led coalition government, described the BBC as “a huge national crown jewel.”

However, speaking to the Guardian, Hunt indicated there were “some things” the corp. could “do differently and better.”

Whether this involves changes to the license fee, paid by all U.K. TV-watching homes, remains to be seen.

At a time when increasing numbers of audiences are predicted to access U.K. BBC services via the Internet, some media policy experts regard the license fee in its current form as unsustainable.

Hunt said the new government remained “committed to the principle that the BBC should have a ring-fenced pot of money over a multi-year period.”

However, the pol appeared to suggest that changes to BBC funding were inevitable in the near to medium-term future.

“We also recognize, as technology changes, we may need to adapt the way it’s (the license fee) collected.

“It is not going to be possible to have a tax every time anyone buys a computer.”

The BBC’s critics, among whom News Corp. is the most vociferous, would be delighted to see funding for the pubcaster cut.

Negotiations concerning the level of future funding for the pubcaster are expected to start next year.

Overall Hunt favors more deregulation of U.K. media, including the lifting of rules that restrict how ITV, Blighty’s biggest private terrestrial web, sells its advertising airtime.

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