Call to raise TV licence fee in line with inflation

THE Department of National Heritage is recommending that the television licence fee, presently pounds 83, should be raised in line with inflation from next April.

This has to be agreed with the Prime Minister and a number of Cabinet ministers, including Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, who has imposed a freeze on public sector pay. If agreed, as seems likely, it would represent a victory for John Birt, the Director-General of the BBC, who made a plea for the licence fee's value to be preserved at an industry conference last year.

The BBC's case is aided by the fact that a retail price index of around 2 per cent would add not more than pounds 2 to the licence fee, taking it to either pounds 84.50 or pounds 85. The BBC may also win an agreement that the index linking lasts until 1996, when the corporation's charter and licence agreement with the Government will be finalised.

The Department of Heritage expects to announce the agreement next month, and to publish the summary of an independent study of the BBC's attempts to become more efficient produced by the accountancy firm Touche Ross.

The BBC is to disband the historic 70-year-old radio reference library at Broadcasting House, much to the dismay of programme makers, who rely on its painstaking research, and claim that it is a unique BBC institution.

Part of the service is expected to be merged with a press cutting library used by BBC news services, while another portion will go to the new White City building in west London. The partial closure stems from reductions in overheads being sought by the BBC. Some 15 library and research staff are affected.

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