Report urges licence fee cash for Scottish TV network

tv studio The creation of a TV channel for Scotland was recommended by the commission

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A new digital TV network for Scotland should be funded by the television licence fee, a panel of media experts has said.

The creation of the new network was the key recommendation of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission in 2008.

In a report published on Monday, the Scottish Digital Network Panel recommends "an allocation from the television licence fee".

The BBC said it had no plans to revisit the current six-year licence fee deal.

The Scottish Digital Network Panel estimated the annual cost of the network at £75m.

The panel, which was appointed by the Scottish government, said that was about 2% of the licence fee revenue, currently used to fund BBC services.

However, the BBC recently agreed a deal with the UK government, which included a licence fee freeze and to absorb both the costs of Welsh-language broadcaster S4C and of the World Service.

The BBC said that agreement would run until 2017.

Scottish Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop said it was up to the UK government to commit to funding a digital channel.

She said that would be better than UK government plans to encourage more local and city TV channels, claiming that could leave most Scots with less public service programme choice.

The planned Scottish Digital Network (SDN) would consist of a new dedicated television channel - available on Freeview, satellite and cable - supported by a range of digital content on broadband.

The SDN panel's report claimed that the licence fee was now regarded across the political spectrum as the best source of funding for public service broadcasting in general and not just the BBC.

Under the recent licence fee deal, S4C will receive £76m annually from the licence fee from 2013-14, and there is also to be a substantial contribution to the costs of the proposed new local television services around the UK.

The report criticised the outcome of the recent licence fee settlement between the UK government and the BBC as being "determined in haste in private meetings", without the opportunity for public consultation and for consideration of the debate and the demand in Scotland.

The panel ruled out advertising as a possible source of funding for the SDN.

It said: "Any advertising revenue attracted by the new service, if commercially funded, would most likely be at the expense of other Scottish media rather than representing additional revenues in the market."

'Secretly agreed'

Blair Jenkins, who chaired the SDN Panel and also the Scottish Broadcasting Commission, said that the report provided a route map for how the new service could be delivered.

"Our aim was to build on the very widespread public and political support for the SDN by setting out a clear description of how it can be established and funded.

"We hope that both the momentum and the consensus can be maintained for this transformation of Scottish broadcasting."

Ms Hyslop said: "The panel's report identifies the television licence fee - which will soon be used to fund S4C and local television - as the most appropriate source of funding for the network.

"It is now for the UK government, which currently has responsibility for broadcasting, and which secretly agreed a new licence fee settlement last autumn, to commit funding for the network and address the deficit of public service broadcasting north of the border."

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