What could replace the BBC license fee? | BBC license fees


Nadine Dorries’ announcement of major changes to the BBC’s funding model is just the latest attack on the broadcaster by Tory ministers in the past 12 years. There have been repeated attempts to decriminalize non-payment of the license fee, huge funding cuts in real terms and the decision to blame the BBC for abolishing free licenses for the over 75s. .

In the short term, the most damaging news for the BBC is the government’s intention to freeze the cost of the license fee for two years. It condemns the broadcaster to another round of deep cuts to its output that will weaken its offering in the UK and globally.

In the long term, the biggest problem is that the government wants to abolish the BBC’s existing funding model when the broadcaster’s royal charter expires in 2027.

Households with a TV used to receive live broadcasts (or watch iPlayer) are charged £159 for a license, bringing in £3.2bn a year for the BBC and Welsh broadcaster S4C. Yet hundreds of thousands of lawsuits are filed each year for non-payment of the levy, which disproportionately affects women who are home when inspectors call. In addition, the number of households paying the fee is decreasing.

Yet, with countries around the world phasing out their TV license fees, the writing has been on the wall for the UK version for some time – although the exact timing and format of its replacement is unclear.

Here are some of the alternative funding models:

Charge a tax on each broadband connection

The existing television license is taken from the device traditionally used to receive most BBC content. A more modern equivalent would be a tax on every broadband connection in the UK used to fund public service media. This could be relatively easy to apply, with the money collected through existing broadband providers and having the advantage of being near universal. But adding £13 a month to the cost of a broadband connection could make internet access prohibitive for some households.

Introduce an annual government subsidy

Rather than having a whole bureaucracy dedicated to collecting licensing fees, why not just ask the government to fund the BBC directly? This model was used to fund Australia’s ABC for most of its existence, although it also left the show at the mercy of the government of the day. There would also be questions about how to enshrine the BBC’s editorial independence if funding for the broadcaster were decided alongside other spending commitments in the Chancellor’s budget.

Allow the BBC to broadcast advertising

The BBC already advertises its services outside the UK, so why not in Britain? Other national broadcasters around the world run adverts, as do UK public service broadcasters such as ITV and Channel 4. Yet advertising revenue is unlikely to be enough to sustain the BBC’s current range of services and this would inevitably lead to a focus on programs that attract viewers as well as the reduction of certain production elements that are highly valued by niche audiences.

Levy a special income tax to fund public service media

This model has gained popularity in Scandinavian countries which have abolished their licensing fees. Sweden took this approach in 2019, scrapping the 2,400 crown (£194) levy and replacing it with a tax on all working adults, charged at 1% of income up to a maximum of 1,300 crowns per person . This money then goes into a dedicated public service media pool, helping to reduce the risk of government interference. A UK equivalent would mean a new tax appearing on payslips alongside income tax and national insurance contributions – which could be politically difficult.

Turn the BBC into a subscription service

It’s the rallying cry of many Tory MPs who see Netflix’s huge popularity and wonder why the BBC couldn’t adopt the same model. The biggest challenge is technical. While Netflix offers a single product – an easily password-protected app and website – the vast majority of BBC content is still consumed through free TV and radio shows that are impossible to put behind a paywall. A subscription model would inevitably kill the universal free-to-air BBC as we know it.

Privatize commercially viable parts and retain a much smaller public service press organization

Privatize BBC iPlayer, put it behind a paywall and charge subscription fees for premium drama and David Attenborough programming. Sell ​​the company’s radio stations and allow them to hunt audiences to please advertisers. And then provide a very small set of central government funding to cover the BBC’s unprofitable news production on a free basis.

Abolish the BBC completely

With news increasingly circulating through Facebook-owned social media platforms, Piers Morgan set to launch talkTV on behalf of Rupert Murdoch, and the growing popularity of private sector radio stations such as LBC, do we really need the bbc? The government could simply follow the American model, let the free market take over and allow private companies to shape the nation’s media consumption.


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