Potential changes to the BBC licence fee

Source: JThomas (via Wikimedia Commons)

by Mary Israel

The government has signalled a “massive pruning back” of the BBC’s activities. Since the fee’s introduction in 1946, the BBC has expanded and has retained its role as a universal broadcaster. However, with discussions of abolishing the licence fee and replacing it with a Netflix-style subscription model, what are the implications of this potential change to the people of the UK?

With the current licence fee set in place, people are required to pay either £154.50 for colour TV or £52 for monochrome TV. Avoiding paying either of these amounts is a criminal offence and could cost the evader time in court. Whether or not a household participates in the watching of the BBC, they are required by the state to pay the fee. This means that there are people out there who are essentially getting robbed of their money as the fee only goes towards the BBC service and being allowed to access other channels, such as ITV, are just extra perks. 

On the other hand, the current model actually benefits people aged 75 and over as they do not have to pay the licence fee at all in order to access television channels. If a subscription-based strategy is put in place, older people will surely be at a disadvantage. Furthermore, an alternative model will require the BBC to lose a number of its channels and services. Their wide selection of radio stations and TV channels would be in danger as losing the licence fee means that people only subscribe and pay for the services that they actually use. 

However, losing the licence fee could also mean losing the BBC. As the UK’s main provider of news, the BBC is an amazing national asset. But it is likely that a subscription model would mean that the BBC will work towards presenting a more business-based agenda. Without the funding of taxpayers, their customers would undoubtedly become more concentrated in terms of demographic with factors such as political leanings and social class having more influence in the content that they produce. This means that particular viewpoints would have a lot more coverage in order to please their market and the specific groups of people who pay for them to exist.

As technology evolves, a lot of changes have occurred to alter our traditional way of consuming media. With the success of online subscription packages such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, people are switching from traditional media channels to online entertainment. Not only are they more accessible, but they give the consumer more freedom, in regard to the selection of entertainment and when and where channels can be accessed. But the BBC is such an immense service to transform. As a national institution, the BBC has provided and is continuing to provide news and entertainment, an essential part of the British culture. Scrapping the fee would surely be a shame, not just in regard to the reduction of BBC services, but for the way in which people have assimilated the current BBC into their lives. 


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