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The BBC is the world's largest broadcaster, with a long list of sins. But now that its licence fee is being raided and its output attacked, we must defend this powerful, plural national institution

By John Lloyd   July 2009

You can also read a specially extended version of Prospect’s exclusive interview with BBC director-general Mark Thompson for free on our website here

The BBC is caught in a series of contradictions that may prove fatal. The first of these, about which it worries most, concerns the licence fee. British citizens who have a television set must pay, on pain of fine or imprisonment, £142.50 a year—even if they never watch a BBC programme. From this, it gathered £3.4bn between 2007 and 2008. The profits on sales of programmes and other activities by BBC Worldwide give it a further £118m…

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