U.K. Culture Committee Takes Issue with BBC License Fee, BBC Trust


LONDON: In a report examining the future of the BBC, the U.K.'s culture, media and sport committee said that the current license fee is "becoming harder to sustain" and suggests moving to a broadcasting levy on all households instead.

The committee acknowledged that there "currently appears to be no better alternative to funding the BBC in the near-term other than a hypothecated tax or the license fee," but says the model needs to be re-evaluated given the changes in communication and media technology and changing audience needs and behaviors. "We conclude that a degree of subscription could be a possibility in the future if the BBC moved to a more personalized service but as a minimum the license fee must be amended to cover catch-up television as soon as possible. In any event, the BBC should look at the practicality of introducing controls for authorizing access to the iPlayer," the report said.

"Our view is that the justification for criminal penalties for non-payment of the TV license fee and the way TV licensing enforcement is carried out is anachronistic and out of proportion with responses to non-payment for other services. Decriminalization of the license fee could be linked to introducing controls for access to television services or moving to a German-style broadcasting levy."

The committee also challenged the claim that the BBC needs to provide “something for everyone.” It stated, "The BBC should reduce provision in areas that are over-served or where the public service characteristics of its output are marginal or where others are better placed to deliver excellence and better value for money. As such, we believe the BBC needs to be able to make bigger, braver decisions on its strategy and inevitably must do less in some areas. In practice, the level of funding the BBC receives will be a principal lever in determining and adjusting the BBC’s scope and scale."

Also, the committee suggested that the BBC Trust be done away with and new arrangements made for both the regulation of the BBC and its governance. "We recommend the BBC to have a unitary board with a non-executive chair and a majority of non-executive directors where the board has complete responsibility for the BBC’s corporate governance and operations, within the confines of the charter and framework agreement with government. A unitary board would be better placed to reshape the BBC in line with its core public purposes, to respond to its critics and be directly accountable for its performance and services."