BBC license fee should be tested by families, report says

BBC building

The BBC is looking at options to review the license fee. (SHOVEL)

The BBC license fee can be tested by households and linked to municipal tax rates, a report suggested.

It also recommends a universal rate, with the Lords Communications and Digital Committee saying the model, in which each household would be required to pay a flat rate regardless of consumption, could provide the broadcaster with “predictable and sustainable income levels”.

See More information: BBC to launch new TV news channel next year

Linking each family’s tax to the council tax and means testing it would make things fairer than the current model, the committee argued, and follows the method already used in Switzerland and Germany.

In addition to the new fee model, the report urged the BBC to consider a hybrid option where public service broadcasting would be free, but other content, such as high-profile drama, would be behind a paywall.

The BBC logo is seen at the BBC Broadcasting House on 17 January 2022 in London, England.  Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has hinted that the government will soon reveal plans to abolish the license fee in 2027, with funding frozen for the next two years.  Unlike other subscription services, the BBC faces a number of challenges, including finding a way to charge users while continuing to provide free content on its various radio stations.  (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The corporation is considering major changes to the way it is financed. (Getty Images)

The report said the model would give the public choice, ensuring that the BBC’s core programming remains universally accessible, but warned that there would be “significant commercial risk with no guarantee of success”.

Other options previously on the table, such as being financed by advertising or government subsidies, were ruled out as not viable.

To see: What alternatives are there for the BBC license fee?

See More information: The best TV yet to come in 2022

A purely advertising-funded BBC is “highly unlikely to be viable” and would mean “a multi-billion pound reduction in BBC revenue, hurting the rest of the public service broadcasting sector”, which depends on advertising.

BBC programming may also need to reduce focus to focus on core public service programming on a significantly reduced budget, the report added.

    The BBC logo is seen at the BBC Broadcasting House on 17 January 2022 in London, England.  Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has hinted that the government will soon reveal plans to abolish the license fee in 2027, with funding frozen for the next two years.  Unlike other subscription services, the BBC faces a number of challenges, including finding a way to charge users while continuing to provide free content on its various radio stations.  (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The proposed model could be linked to municipal tax bands. (Getty Images)

The committee rejected a subscription service model similar to Amazon Prime Video or Apple TV+ because it “would generate insufficient income while introducing disproportionate barriers to access.”

He said the model would also hamper the BBC’s ability to provide its services across the UK and present a number of technical challenges.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced in January that the license fee will be frozen at £159 for the next two years until April 2024 and that she wants to find a new funding model before the current deal expires in 2027 as it is “completely outdated”.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on July 12, 2022 in London, England.  Boris Johnson named new ministers last week to replace ministers who resigned, forcing him to step down as Conservative Party leader and prime minister.  Johnson remains in office in an interim position until a new leader is returned on September 5, 2022. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Nadine Dorries wants a new license fee in place until 2027. (Getty Images)

Committee Chair Baroness Stowell of Beeston said: “The real danger is if the BBC does not take this opportunity to reform and demonstrate why it is valuable to the public in this new world of infinite choice.

“That’s why the committee concluded that when it comes to what the BBC does, the status quo is not an option.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “We welcome the Lord’s report. We agree that we need to continue renovating, which is what we have been doing at an accelerated pace.

“Clearly the BBC needs to stay relevant and we welcome the report’s finding that a BBC market failure would not be a good outcome.

“Also, we are open-minded about the future and it is certain that there is a debate about whether the license fee needs to evolve and, if so, what comes next.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.