I subscribed to Sky HD last year, and was appalled by the LACK of HD material on the Sky channels. Very little of it was actually HD, much was just up-scaled standard definition (is the Simpsons in HD actually better than SD?) And unlike the BBC HD service (which is FTA, even on Sky HD), I pay a £10 a month premium, as well as paying over-the-odds for being an early adopter (HD box £300, installation etc.) So, Sky are not doing the HD stuff out of the goodness of their hearts.
Compare this to the BBC HD output, and you will see that the BBC are actually commissioning much more real HD content than Sky. And the BBC have developed an HD delivery platform in FreeSat (and also HD FreeView), which other people can build the kit for (Sky and Virgin do not actually *make* their kit, it is subcontracted and then branded)
The real HD benefits on Sky HD appear to be for Sport (which I do not want), Movies (not Sky produced), and the HD documentary channels (a good part of which actually show content part financed by the BBC). I am actually thinking of DROPPING the HD subscription, although the number of Sky channels is improving at the moment.
My Sky subscription currently costs me £576 per year, which actually produces about 8 hours a week (estimate) of new Sky material, and the rest is access to many other channels not produced by Sky (much carrying BBC material - look who owns the UK* channels). My, the BBC license fee actually looks really good value for money, especially now that FreeSat is available as well as FreeView.
The reason Sky want the BBC shutdown is so that they will have a near-monopoly of TV delivery (also the reason why they are so antagonistic towards Virgin buying into ITV) so that any content worth watching has to be paid for, and to BskyB. It's all down to the money and profit.
I agree that the license fee is effectively a tax on owning TV receiving equipment, but why not just think of it as a subscription to whichever part of the BBC you use. It's still good value for money, even if you only use the radio, or news, or the FreeSat or FreeView delivery platform.