BBC to Choose Between Funding World Service or Subsidize License Fees for over 75s

Government spending review likely to shave 14% off BBC's $6 billion annual budget


LONDON -- The BBC Trust is embroiled in an eleventh-hour attempt to stave off cuts of as much as 14% from its £3.8 billion ($6 billion) a year budget, amid a fiercer than expected government spending review to be unveiled by Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday, sources said.

The pubcaster's board of Trustees is wrestling with the unpalatable choice of either taking on the £300 million ($471.5 million) annual funding of the BBC World Service -- currently paid for by the government -- or having to cover the cost of free license fees for the over 75s at the cost of more than £500 million ($785.7 million) a year.

The latter choice has been vociferously opposed by the BBC Trust, which is privately appalled at the prospect of having to implement what amounts to government social policy.

The choice has been forced on the BBC as part of last-minute wrangling over spending cuts across government departments, with Ministers assessing all the costs that come out of their budgets.

The BBC World Service has previously been funded by the Foreign Office while the Treasury has sustained the cost of free television license fees for seniors.