The looming battle for the BBC licence fee

The run up to the next review of the BBC’s Royal Charter in 2016 is already showing signs of being dominated by public debate on the subject of the obligatory licence fee. The BBC itself is of course keen to perpetuate that guaranteed source of income and, according to a recent report in the Daily Telegraph, may even begin to use those funds to produce advertising to persuade the British public why it should continue to provide them.

“The BBC must “get aggressive” about selling its virtues to the nation, director-general Lord Hall has argued, as he disclosed the corporation will be using its own airwaves to convince viewers it is good value.

Lord Hall has said the BBC must be “less British” about telling the public the £145.50 licence fee is worth paying, as he insisted it is “quite wrong” to accuse the corporation of dominating the media.

His statement raises the possibility that the BBC could place advertisements or trailers on its own channels in the run-up to the licence fee being considered in 2016, spelling out its benefits to viewers.”

The opposing case for the abolition of the licence fee and its replacement with voluntary subscription was recently made in an interesting article in The Commentator by Tim Congdon.

“Time and technology wait for no organisation, no matter how revered. The next two years will see a lively debate over the future of the British Broadcasting Corporation, with the current Royal Charter due to run out at the end of 2016. The early talk is of an extension of the licence fee for a further decade to 2026, but of possible reductions in its value and certainly of freezing it in real terms.

According to an ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraph last month, 70 per cent of voters believe that the licence fee should be abolished or cut.”

What do BBC Watch readers think? Can the case for payment enforced by law still be made in the digital age and how would you feel about your licence fee being used to create adverts to persuade you to continue paying it? Tell us in the comments below. 

Related articles:

New BBC DG coy on subject of licence fee

New BBC DG coy on subject of licence fee

The latest Director General of the BBC, Lord Tony Hall, began his new position this week with an e-mail to BBC staff and an interview on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. 

Tony Hall interview Today programme

During the interview – which is well worth a listen in full – Hall claimed that public trust in the BBC is rising and that he intends to respond “to things I hear from both outsiders and also insiders”. The delightfully feisty programme host John Humphrys raised the subject of the licence fee, but Hall declined to give a straight answer to the question “does the BBC need more money?”. 

On that issue, The Commentator recently published a very interesting article by the initiator of a petition calling for a referendum on the licence fee.

“The Licence Fee was established at a time when there was no alternative to State-funded radio or television, but has now created a dumb, yet enormously fat and happy playground bully that pervades, influences and commands almost every aspect of the British way of life.

In an age of media “a la carte”, the BBC insists on dictating the menu, as well as fixing the price. The politicians won’t take the lead in muzzling this beast: the Tories had their opportunity but are running scared; Labour and the Lib Dems sycophantically suck-up to get their free shot of publicity (Vince Cable is almost a saint). Even UKIP is strangely silent on this issue.

So it is up to us, the great British public, to do something about it.”

If Mr Hall is genuinely interested in listening to his funding public, the proposal raised by this petition presents an innovative and inclusive way in which to do so.