VLV responded today to the DCMS announcement on the Contestable Fund.
Colin Browne, Chairman of the VLV, said ‘While we support the Government’s ambition to boost children’s content on TV and radio, we have concerns about the Contestable Fund. It is important that this is genuinely new money and does not lead to a further raid on the BBC’s Licence Fee funding.
It will be vital to monitor the pilot phase very closely to ensure that it is in practice delivering quality UK programming for our children and not just boosting the revenues of the commercial operators.’
The Contestable Fund is being run as a pilot for three years from April 1st 2019. VLV is concerned because we fear that if it is considered a success the Government may top slice the Licence Fee further to fund it in future. The current funding for the pilot phase comes from under spend on Digital Switchover which was funded from the Licence Fee originally.
VLV believes there are many other potential sources of additional funding for the provision of public service content which no recent Government has researched fully. These include levies on hardware, levies on platforms which benefit from original content, levies on telecom companies which also benefit from original content because it drives their businesses, and the National Lottery.
The two most recent licence fee settlements have led to an estimated 20% reduction in BBC income for programmes and services. This is undermining the BBC’s ability to deliver a high quality, comprehensive service as well as compromising its independence from Government.
VLV has argued consistently that licence fee settlements should be open to Parliamentary scrutiny and should not be ‘top-sliced’ for purposes other than the delivery of the BBC’s mission. VLV strongly opposed both the 2010 and 2015 settlements and would not wish for future settlements to continue this trend to ‘top slice’ the licence fee for other purposes.