The director David Attenborough is joined by the playwright Alan Bennett, the actors Sir Nigel Hawthorne, Dame Judi Dench and Rowan Atkinson, the author Helen Fielding, the conductor Sir Simon Rattle, the historian Simon Schama, the comedian Victoria Wood and others in urging the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith, to back the corporation's request for "significantly greater funds".
In a letter in The Independent today, they "urge Chris Smith and his colleagues in government to have the courage and conviction" to secure the future of a strong BBC.
Their letter comes at the end of a week that saw the BBC sharply criticised by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, chaired by the Labour backbencher Gerald Kaufman. It rejected a levy on digital TV viewers recommended by the independent Davies committee.
The celebrities signing today's letter want such a levy. Mr Kaufman's committee said the BBC had failed to make a case for expanding its role in digital broadcasting and for an extra pounds 24-a-year digital supplement to pay for it. Mr Smith is expected to make a decision on the matter in January.
The committee also criticised the BBC for encouraging licence-fee payers to switch to direct debit, which cost them an extra pounds 5 on top of the pounds 101 fee.
The celebrities say the Government must realise that its response to the Davies committee on the funding of the BBC is "a critical moment not just for the BBC, but for the future of broadcasting in this country.
"We believe that the fundamental goals of the BBC - to nurture creativity of every kind, to promote public understanding and learning, to draw individuals and communities into the national debate - will be more not less important in the Digital World."
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