Is it time to scrap the licence fee?
OVER recent days, the BBC has been engulfed in another row about a serious lapse in editorial standards that has revived ill feeling towards the obligatory licence fee.
Ever since the deregulation of broadcasting, opposition to the fee has increased. Subscribers to other networks have asked why they should pay for BBC services they do not want nor need. The BBC, rightly, has a global reputation. The controversy this week, sadly, tarnishes everything else it does.
Should the licence fee be abolished because of this row? Many say it should but I express caution.
Although it is the Government’s policy to maintain public service broadcasting, the former Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said at the time of the Royal Charter renewal, that she would consider alternative funding if viable and workable.
What are the options? Could the BBC be funded from general taxation? That would not be popular. Would subscription provide enough? I do not think so. Advertising? Not on top of the multitude of commercial channels. One partial solution Mediawatch-UK proposed more than 10 years ago was for the National Lottery to supplement the licence fee as it is frozen or progressively reduced.
We also believe a well-defined code of practice should set out the sort of content that is unacceptable.
Much of the discontent about the licence fee would then evaporate.