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Tories would scrap broadband tax and licence fee sharing plans

LONDON - Shadow media secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that the Conservatives would scrap Labour plans for a broadband tax and reverse a decision to make the BBC share £130m worth of licence fee to support local news services if they were to be voted into power.

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In an interview with the Financial Times, Hunt says he wants to curb the BBC's plans to compete everywhere, particularly online, and that media regulations should guarantee plurality.

He said that plans to levy a monthly tax of 50p on telephone lines, outlined in Labour's Digital Britain report, would be scrapped and the Tories would look at the possibility of "ripping up" the BBC Royal Charter, which expires in 2015.

In news that ITV will welcome, Hunt says that the current rules that force ITV to sell all available airtime are "complete madness" and that the regulatory framework under which ITV operates has failed to keep up to date with changes, meaning that the broadcaster's competitors are not just other broadcasters but also advertisers such as Gumtree.com.

Last month, Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper The Sun came out and said it was backing the Tories in the next general election, due to take place in May 2010. In August, his son James, chief executive of British Sky Broadcasting, described the BBC as a threat to independent journalism and condemned government media regulation.

The FT interview comes a fortnight after Hunt failed to outline the Conservative Party's media policies during its annual conference in Manchester, although at fringe meetings he spoke about the plans to abolish the BBC Trust and slim down Ofcom.

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