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David Puttnam

“Google tax” to fund shows and BBC licence fee abolished

“Google tax” to fund shows and BBC licence fee abolished, Lord Puttnam report recommends

30 June, 2016

“Google tax” to fund shows and BBC licence fee abolished, Lord Puttnam report recommends

A “Google tax” on the revenues of digital media giants would fund new public service television programmes produced by arts organisations, a report by Lord Puttnam has recommended.

A wide-ranging review into the future of broadcasting, conducted by the Oscar-winning film producer, has produced radical conclusions, including the abolition of the BBC licence fee and its possible replacement by a Council Tax supplement.

“People must be given some understanding of how a functioning democracy operates or we will lose it” Lord Puttnam

Lord Puttnam said the need for “trusted sources of information” was vital if an informed democracy is to thrive in a digital era when “market totalitarianism” threatens public service broadcasting.

The report, A Future for Public Service Television: Content and Platforms in a Digital World, which followed an eight-month inquiry held at Goldsmiths, University of London, recommends a new fund for “public service content.”

Grants would distributed from a levy on the revenues of the “largest digital intermediaries”, including Google and internet service providers, such as BT, Virgin Media and Sky.

The Chariots of Fire producer estimates that a 1% levy on UK revenues from these businesses would raise more than £100m a year. 

Museums, performing arts institutions and other community organisations “not already engaged in commercial operations” would be able to bid for funds to make their own programmes.

Replace licence fee as soon as possible

Lord Puttnam also calls on the Government to replace the BBC licence fee “as soon as possible with a more progressive funding mechanism such as a tiered platform-neutral household fee, a supplement to Council Tax or funding via general taxation with appropriate parliamentary safeguards.”

The BBC’s Royal Charter would be abolished, with the broadcaster reconstituted as a statutory body. 

Appointments to the BBCs’ new unitary board should be entirely independent from government, with the process overseen by a new independent appointments body.

The Government currently wants to choose up to half of the members of the new 14-strong BBC board.

Too many celebrities on ITV political programmes

Lord Puttnam also called on ministers to abandon plans, currently being explored, to privatise Channel 4 and called for ITV to devote more airtime to current affairs and regional programmes, under the threat of sanction from Ofcom, the communications watchdog.

Too many ITV political programmes, such as Peston on Sunday and panel show The Agenda, presented by Tom Bradby, are “littered with (entertainment) personalities and that’s not helpful”, the arts grandee said. 

However he found the BBC’s referendum coverage “constipated.”

Asked if toughening up broadcasters’ obligations to provide “public service” news programming was like telling viewers to “eat their greens”, Lord Puttnam said: “If you don’t eat your greens, the results are predictable, your body will fall apart.” 

“Our democracy is fragile and people must be given some understanding of how a functioning democracy operates or we will lose it.”

John Whittingdale, the Culture Secretary, wants to create a £50m funding pot, guaranteed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to produce children’s programmes, local news and arts shows but is opposed to imposing a levy on digital providers.

Source: inews