Right of Reply

The corporate affairs director of Granada Media Group replies to Gavyn Davies' recommendations for digital television, which appeared in this week's Media section
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GAVYN DAVIES suggests (Tuesday 21 September) that only the BBC can produce the new digital television services required to drive digital television penetration and they should therefore be given a new pounds 24 digital licence fee supplement to fund these new channels.

He is wrong on three counts. First, Granada, Discovery, ITV, Sky and ITN, to name but five, have either developed or are developing the high- quality public service digital education, factual, drama and news channels that Mr Davies believes only the BBC can provide.

Indeed, allowing the BBC to use the licence fee to fund new digital channels may restrict diversity rather than increase it. The BBC's decision to launch a free-to-air, licence-fee-funded 24-hour news channel has already had a significant commercial impact on Sky News. The BBC's latest plans now threaten to crowd out commer- cial children's channels as well.

Finally, far from driving digital penetration, a new digital poll tax would retard take-up; Mr Davies himself accepts the disincentive effect of a digital licence fee supplement. It seems bizarre to try to encourage the transition to digital by imposing a new pounds 24 tax on anyone who makes that switch.

Mr Davies accuses the commercial broadcasters of crying wolf about the potential impact of his proposed supplement. He hasn't been on the end of the thousands of phone calls Sky and ONdigital have taken from subscribers asking if they can drop the new BBC channels and avoid paying the proposed new supplement. He also seems to have failed to read the opinion poll in his own report showing that nearly 60 per cent of people expressing an opinion were against the introduction of the new supplement.

They join this newspaper (and all but one of the other national papers), all the commercial broadcasters and digital manufacturers, a number of consumer pressure groups and a wide range of Government and Opposition politicians opposed to the supplement.