ITV's Grade supports top-slicing license fee

Slams BBC's 'partnership proposals' with ITV

LONDON -- Outgoing ITV executive chairman Michael Grade has hit out at BBC bosses, slamming the pubcaster's so-called "partnership proposals" and instead supporting the idea of "top-slicing" the BBC license fee to support ITV's regional news.

Grade, a former chair of the BBC board of governors, said that the BBC Trust and BBC management had taken on Ofcom and the government in an "ideological campaign to protect the BBC's monopoly of the license fee," following the Digital Britain white paper, which calls for the BBC license fee to be shared with other broadcasters.

Speaking at the Institute of Economic Affairs annual broadcasting conference, Grade said that the BBC's offer of partnership support to help ITV's regional news coverage had "unfortunately evaporated on close examination" and that of £20 million ($32.9 million) offered in partnership savings by the BBC, only about £7 million ($11.5 million) had panned out and would not in any case be available until 2016.

"By this time regional news on ITV would be long gone," Grade said.

"It is disingenuous, to say the least, to hear the BBC still trotting out partnership as the alternative to guarantee plurality."

Grade said ITV was actively looking at driving digital revenues by charging for its online content.

"Micro payments drive mobile and iTunes and the like -- why not catch up VOD? 200 million hits on YouTube at 10 pence a hit delivers £20 million of revenues," he said.