Sunday 3 November 2013

Is the writing on the wall for the BBC licence fee?

The Sunday Telegraph's assault on the BBC continues. 

They commissioned the polling company ICM to ask the public about the BBC licence fee, and the results are startling, with 70% of voters responding that the licence fee "should be abolished or cut".

That figure breaks down into 49% saying the fee should be completely abolished, and 21% saying that the present £145.50 fee should be cut. Only 10% were willing to see the fee increase in line with inflation, and only 0.3% supported an above-inflation rise. 

The Telegraph adds, "There was wide support for the idea of the BBC developing alternative sources of income, such as through advertising, while ending its funding from the licence fee" - indeed, 63% of respondents backed that very idea. 
Martin Boon, director of ICM research, said it appeared that the “writing is on the wall” for the 90 year-old funding arrangement.
“The public appear to be putting the BBC licence fee on a notice period. They do not think the BBC merits exclusive access to it, and they certainly don't think the BBC should be solely reliant on it.
“In a multi-channel environment in which half the public think the licence fee should be scrapped, it's hard to imagine that the next settlement can offer generous terms.
“If the public had their way, the licence fee could easily be seen as the next victim of austerity resetting.”
Just a few years ago, such polling results would have been unthinkable. It's a measure of how far the various recent scandals have impacted on trust in the BBC perhaps, that's support for the licence fee seems to have crumbled - if these results are accurate. The public's growing anger at publicly-funded wastefulness, especially in this time of austerity, cannot be helping the BBC either. 

Those figures, of course, don't tell us just how strongly people feel about the issue and the BBC, naturally, is having none of it anyway:
A BBC spokesman said the corporation’s own “long term” research had shown that support for the licence fee had grown by 16 percentage points since 2004, to 47 per cent. This makes the licence fee the most popular means of funding the BBC, ahead of subscription and advertising, the spokesman said.
“With 96 per cent of the UK population using BBC services for more than 18 hours a week on average, the licence fee model has shown itself resilient and continues to remain good value for money to the public,” the spokesman said.

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