The government is considering a "levy" on owners of personal computers to finance the BBC. According to its green paper on the future of the state media giant this may be necessary if large numbers switch to watching TV on the Internet instead of using traditional television receivers.
It is not clear whether the government is thinking of requiring computer owners to buy an annual licence to use their equipment, as is the case with TVs. This seems likely, however, as a one-off tax on computer purchases would need to be prohibitively high in order to bring in the necessary revenue.
This threat of an expansion of state interference in freedom of communication is a unwelcome surprise to civil rights advocates. At present the government is only able to deny citizens the right to watch TV programmes. If the law was changed as suggested all communication through the Internet, including access to news and discussion sites, would require government permission.
Britain has no constitutional protection for freedom of expression.