By Edel Brosnan
Polly Toynbee had a very good piece in Saturday's Guardian on Digital Britain and the thorny subject of top-slicing the BBC's licence fee. That is: allocating a slice of the licence fee to organisations outside the BBC, to pay for services that are being squeezed out of the media marketplace, like regional news. Up to now, I have been pretty agnostic about the idea of top-slicing - I think it's vital that we protect and promote high-quality public service programming and I also think that Channel 4 is a vital part of the public-service ecosystem.
But in reality, once you look at the figures, it's clear that, in a recession, top-slicing would be a disaster for quality broadcasting and for the BBC. The good news in Digital Britain is that Channel 4's future is a lot more secure than it was even twelve months ago - and there are some interesting ideas about how the Channel 4 funding gap can be filled. But top-slicing is not the solution - other ideas, such as levies, would add new money to the pot, without undermining the BBC.