Tory report on BBC future 'too radical'

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The Independent Online

A report commissioned by the Conservative Party on the future of the BBC provoked widespread disapproval from the television industry yesterday, with even the Tories themselves reluctant to embrace its radical findings.

The study by television experts led by David Elstein, former chief executive of Channel Five, called for the licence fee to be scrapped and for the BBC to be predominantly funded from subscriptions.

But the shadow Culture Secretary Julie Kirkbride, who attended the launch of the report, would not commit the Tories to including the findings in the party manifesto.

"These things are still to be decided. We want a debate and we want to hear from everybody and we will decide in the fullness of time where this debate will take us," she said.

The Tories are aware of the public support for the corporation that emerged during its recent bruising encounter with the Government over the death of Dr David Kelly. Ms Kirkbride said: "There is no doubt that after the Hutton inquiry there was a great deal of sympathy for the BBC's position. There is a lot of good in the BBC. No politician in the Conservative Party would want to see the BBC diminished by any changes."

The Conservatives are likely to adopt some of the report's less controversial findings, such as reforming the BBC board of governors and putting them under the jurisdiction of the new government watchdog Ofcom.

Ms Kirkbride said: "Michael Howard has made it clear that he isn't satisfied with the present governance of the BBC. It's also right that we look at the licence fee and impact the BBC has on the creative community."