Lyons issues warning about BBC funds

Says BBC income shouldn't go to Channel 4

LONDON -- BBC Trust chairman Michael Lyons has issued a stern warning against the possible use of BBC license-fee cash to shore up ailing public-service broadcaster Channel 4.

In a speech to the Royal Society of Arts on Tuesday, Lyons said using BBC income to finance Channel 4 would change the nature of the provocative broadcaster and subject it to greater financial scrutiny.

"Change the means of funding, and you change the channel," Lyons said. "A publicly funded Channel 4 will inevitably be different from a commercially funded one."

Lyons also warned politicians and regulators that the BBC license fee should not be used as "a back pocket," saying it was not "a spare pot of cash to be raided each time there was a good cause."

The future funding of Channel 4 is proving to be a vexed issue for the 3.5 billion-pound-a-year pubcaster and is the key issue in a government review of public service broadcasting.

Channel 4 has told regulators and government that it faces a 100 million-pound-a-year budget deficit and has called for public support. A decision on its future funding will be made by the government and Ofcom next year.