Is it time to scrap the li­cence fee?

Daily Express - - NEWS - By John C Beyer ME­DI­AWATCH-UK DI­REC­TOR

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.

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