News

Should TV licence fee pay for local news?

Ian Grant

The government has published a consultation on whether it should use part of the television licence fee to support local news gathering, mainly for online reporting.

It will also publish its legislative programme to give effect to some of the proposal in the final Digital Britain report published two weeks ago.

More and more TV material is being distributed over the internet using applications such as the BBC's iPlayer file-sharing system. This is likely to rise as broadband speeds rise and make downloads quicker.

One of the criticisms of the Digital Britain report was that it tried to turn the internet into a video distribution system with limited feedback mechanisms rather than support fully symmetric personal interactions using different formats such as voice and SMS as well as video.

Support for local news organisations was one of the key recommendations in the report. Local print publishers have been hit hard by the internet, which has removed much income from advertising, and the recession, which has pegged back other sources of income.

The Digital Britain report made a particular case for the need for top-up funding to prevent a decline in the provision of impartial news in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, locally and in the regions, the government said.

The report argued that it was reasonable to use money from the TV licence fee to support more local news-gathering, which could be distributed mainly online.

The consultation ends on 22 September.


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