TV battle breaks out over BBC ads plan

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The Independent Online

A BATTLE is raging between commercial television companies over proposals to allow advertising on the BBC to pay for its switch to digital television, rather than adding a levy to the licence fee for digital viewers.

A BATTLE is raging between commercial television companies over proposals to allow advertising on the BBC to pay for its switch to digital television, rather than adding a levy to the licence fee for digital viewers.

BSkyB and the advertising companies favour adverts on some BBC channels, but ITV bosses are strongly opposed.

Advisers let it be known at the Labour conference last week that the Prime Minister is considering allowing advertising on BBC channels because of fierce protests against the digital levy.

In August a review recommended that the BBC's move into digital be funded by extra licence fee income of between £150m and £200m a year, levied at £1.57 a month on those signing up for digital services such as Sky Digital and ONdigital. Those companies say this will slow the take-up of digital TV.

Sky would prefer to see some BBC digital services - notably News 24 - funded by advertising so it can compete with Sky's news on a commercial footing. Sky gets most of its revenue from subscriptions and has less to lose from the BBC selling adverts.

The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers backs adverts on BBC digital channels. It believes TV advertising is too costly and would like more competition. The society told the review that there should be at least one minute of advertising an hour on BBC 1 and BBC 2.

But ITV's chief executive, Richard Eyre, told advertisers last week: "One minute an hour in BBC peak time would generate an additional £170m a year for the BBC and cost the commercial sector £160m."

Consultation ends on 1 November and the Government will decide early next year.

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