BBC licence fee payers fund more charter review PR

It was difficult to miss the BBC’s latest charter review PR efforts on social media on August 25th.

Deprivation study tweet 1

Deprivation study tweet 2

Deprivation study tweet 3

Unfortunately, despite the claims in those Tweets, the link provided does not lead to the ‘full study’ but to a press release put out by the BBC which was also amplified in the Radio Times and through video.

In that press release we learn that:

“Nationally, seven in 10 households say that they are content to pay the current level of the licence fee or more in order to receive BBC services. This study mainly focused on the minority who say the licence fee is too high or, if it was down to them, they would forgo the BBC.”

However, it later emerges that over 31% of those who took part in the exercise (and no information is provided regarding how they were identified or recruited) were not among “the minority who say the licence fee is too high” at all.

“Of those taking part,

24 households originally said they would prefer to pay nothing and not receive the BBC;

24 households originally said that they would be willing to pay less than the current licence fee for the current BBC;

22 households originally said that they would be willing to pay the licence fee or more.” [emphasis added]

Notably, the BBC’s promotion of the results of this study focuses on specific messaging:

“Thirty-three out of the 48 households who originally said they would prefer to not pay at all and not receive the BBC, or who wanted to pay a lower licence fee, changed their minds and said they were now willing to pay the full licence fee for the BBC.

Twenty-one out of the 22 households who originally said that they were happy to pay the licence fee or more still held this view, and 15 of these households believed this even more strongly than at the beginning of the study.”

No graphics were promoted on BBC Twitter accounts quoting the 15 households who did not change their minds and the BBC’s press release reveals nothing about the household who originally supported the licence fee and apparently had a change of heart.

In 2013/14 there were 25,419,296 licences in force in the UK and trends would suggest that the number would have risen since then. If, as the BBC claims, 70% of households are content with the current arrangement, that places well over seven million households in the category termed “the minority who say the licence fee is too high”. The sample size of this BBC commissioned study is obviously therefore far too small to provide results with any statistical relevance. 

It is once again unlikely that the people who paid for this study will be able to find out how much it cost. But if the BBC is keen to persuade its funding public that they are getting value for money, then surely a very basic step would be to avoid wasting resources on ‘studies’ which fail to meet the minimum standards of statistical credibility.

2 comments on “BBC licence fee payers fund more charter review PR

  1. I will be able to manage very well without the BBC. Wall-to-wall repeats during the day and even sometimes in the evening (there are only so many times you can laugh at Mrs Brown’s boys or watch old episodes of Rip-Off Britain repeated for the umpteenth time – all been paid for by me when they were originally commissioned and transmitted), then there’s the positively awful Jeremy Bowen, Orla Guerin, and then an HR wastrel on £300k a year.

  2. Despite an annual 10% of magistrates’ courts criminal prosecutions beingfor non-payment of the extortionate £145.50 p.a. BBC licence fee TV tax, culture secretary John Whttingdale MP says today that he has no intention of dismantling the BBC. Here is the Google News piece:

    “John Whittingdale said he has a slight sense that people who are rushing to defend the BBC are ‘trying to have an argument that’s never been started’

    Published: 4:25pm, 26th August 2015
    Updated: 5:30pm, 26th August 2015

    Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has denied the Government wants to “dismantle” the BBC and stressed there should be no political interference in the programmes the corporation shows.

    He also said that suggestions that there was an ideological Tory drive to destroy the corporation were “just extraordinary”.

    Mr Whittingdale has sparked concern among some supporters of the corporation after saying that a review of the BBC’s royal charter would look at whether the broadcaster should continue to be “all things to all people” or have a more “precisely targeted” mission.

    And he has sparked speculation it may be told to cut back on popular programming which competes with shows available on commercial broadcasters and has raised questions about the future of the licence fee.

    Interviewed by Alastair Stewart in front of an audience at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Mr Whittingdale said: “Who is talking about dismantling the BBC? I’ve never suggested dismantling the BBC.”

    He added: “We are having a debate about the role of the BBC in a very different broadcasting landscape and whether or not it needs to do absolutely everything it has done in the past … or whether there are areas where perhaps it should do more. That is an open debate.”

    Mr Whittingdale said he has a slight sense that people who are rushing to defend the BBC are “trying to have an argument that’s never been started”.

    And, he said: “Whatever my view is, I don’t determine what programmes the BBC should show. That’s the job of the BBC.”

    Mr Whittingdale said any speculation that the Conservative Party has always wanted to change the BBC due to issues such as its editorial line was “absolute nonsense”.

    He added that there have been times when he has been driven “into a fury” because he has not liked something they have broadcast, but he said Labour governments would say the same.

    “The BBC is always going to occasionally broadcast things which the Government doesn’t like.

    “But it is absolutely right that the BBC’s editorial independence is paramount and that the BBC should not be pressurised by Government as to what it can and cannot broadcast,” he said.

    Mr Whittingdale said a lot of people think there is still scope for “further efficiencies in terms of the bureaucracy and the management of the BBC” – and he referred to BBC sitcom W1A which deals with the day-to-day running of the corporation.

    The show features people who have job titles such as head of values and it shows employees regularly in meetings and getting very little work done.

    “One of the reasons why W1A is such a wonderful programme is because in just in the same way as The Thick Of It and Yes Prime Minister had a ring of truth about Whitehall, people think that W1A has a ring of truth about the BBC.

    “And you do say, you know, head of values, what on earth is that?”

    In the course of the interview, Mr Whittingdale said: “I would be very unhappy if the BBC didn’t exist.” He said this was not a debate about whether the BBC should exist. “

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