Why does the New Statesman want to tax the poor for the pleasure of the rich?

It shows how the tenor of the political debate in this country has changed when the New Statesman argues in favour of a new regressive tax which would inevitably hit the poorest hardest and warns, in deeply conservative tones, about the dangers of "meddling" with the 75-year-old funding mechanism for the BBC (Leader, 9 August). So much for radicalism.

A digital licence fee is profoundly unfair, forcing people to pay for new BBC services, such as News 24, whether they want them or not. Most importantly it irreparably undermines the very principle of public service broadcasting. It also risks slowing the transfer to digital which the government is trying to encourage and excluding those who cannot afford the new charge.

The New Statesman seems so obsessed with ranting against all things Murdoch that it ignores facts. It dismisses Sky's output as "only old films, sport and quiz shows". No mention here of the critically lauded Sky News, which has been a huge addition to the broadcasting ecology. Nor of the new films, showcasing British talent like Ewan MacGregor and Jude Law, that Sky is making. Nor of the huge array of other channels which, contrary to the claim of a Sky "monopoly", the multi-channel age has ushered in. FilmFour, the History Channel, Nickelodeon and Discovery are forcing the whole broadcasting industry to raise its game and giving consumers a variety that was denied for years. You even claim that there are no programmes in the multi-channel world catering for lovers of the arts. What about Arena 100 on UK Arena, highlighting British 20th-century art, or the new series Arena People?

It is against this background of high-quality, commercially funded television that the BBC wants an additional tax to spend on channels that replicate those provided by the commercial sector. This will most certainly destroy diversity. Instead of letting outmoded prejudices colour its judgements, the New Statesman should ask whether a new poll tax is fair to the majority of the poor who already believe that the licence fee is bad value.

Elisabeth Murdoch
Managing Director
British Sky Broadcasting