Television viewers are forced to pay unfair licence fees because of the cost of introducing digital television, a Midland peer has warned.
Lord Fowler, the former MP for Sutton Coldfield, said the cost of a licence was set to shoot up to more than £150.
The massive increase was a result of plans to switch off traditional TV signals for digital-only broadcasts.
In Birmingham and the West Midlands, standard analogue broadcasts will end in 2010, and every household will need digital equipment.
But Lord Fowler (Con), formerly Sir Norman Fowler, said it was unfair to make everyone pay a flat fee in their licence bill to fund the changes.
He was speaking in the Lords after leading a Select Committee inquiry into the BBC. He said the public already paid £126.50 a year but the BBC was proposing this should be increased to £150.50 by 2013.
Lord Fowler said: "That scale of increase is too high and should be reduced."
He added: "The Government is proposing that the costs of digital switchover, over the next few years, should be borne by the licence fee payer. We do not deny that there will be costs from the switchover, but believe that these costs should be borne by the general taxpayer."
The Government should arrange help for people who cannot afford digital equipment instead of taking the cost out of the licence fee, he said.
Lord Fowler stressed the importance of keeping the BBC free from political control. Relations between the BBC and the Government have been fraught following the death of Dr David Kelly in 2003, which led to an inquiry by Lord Hutton and the resignation of BBC Director General Greg Dyke.
But Lord Fowler said they were also difficult during Conservative governments.
He said: "I served with two Conservative Prime Ministers - Lady Thatcher and John Major. Neither was what I would call an outright supporter of the BBC."