Actually I don’t find it that surprising – a recent survey comissioned by the BBC showed that rather than giving it to ITV to create a plurality in local news – they would prefer to get it back – some 49% of that MORI poll said they would rather have a reduction in the licence fee.
Of course the Government comissioned survey didn’t include the option of reducing the licence fee – it was structured around their goal of Top slicing.
I think long term, probably by 2016, before the next licence fee settlment – questions will need to be asked, big questions, about what the licence fee should fund – but right now, on the cusp of what will probably be a government changing general election and five years into a licence fee settlement – it isn’t the time.
I think the eventual study, speaking to licence fee payers and PUTTING THEM FIRST and not big corporations (that could end up owned by non-British companies anyway), should ask ‘what they licence fee should pay for’ and start from there – instead of the current situation of asking what it shouldn’t pay for.
Maybe the BBC should just have a single showcase channel on TV and just do speech and classical on radio (basically Radio 4 and Radio 3) leaving the other stuff to the commercial sector.
It’s possible that one television channel (supported by the iPlayer with more niche programming on there) could only include the type of programming the commercial sector can’t or won’t fund/support – challenging documentaries, british made big budget drama, edgy comedy, big live events….
Although on the radio front it would be a shame to lose brilliant grassroots concepts like BBC Introducing and intelligent teen strands like BBC Switch.
Also – should the licence fee be paying for British made children’s television – so does Cbeebies get to stay? Does CBBC get to stay or is that covered elsewhere?
What about going local? Should the fee pay for the speech based local radio and television news services? What about the related websites? In fact should BBC News Online be allowed to stay? Should BBC Science and Nature online stay?
Should bbc.co.uk be anything more than a basic listing of what’s on those three remaining networks (BBC TV, BBC Classical Radio and BBC Speech Radio) as well as the iPlayer?
I think my next post might be a pull together of all the different shows and features I’ve seen people on the internet say they’d pay the licence fee for alone.
The other big question that will need to be asked is whether the licence fee should remain as a compulsory tax or not – if any of the things I talked about above should still exist in the UK then I personally think the answer is yes – as without the unique licence fee (collective good) funding – they won’t happen and Britain will be a poorer place for it.
If however we don’t care about high quality, original British made drama, comedy and documentaries – we don’t care about money staying in the UK production sector, we don’t care about compelling speech radio or strong local content – then we don’t really need the licence fee.
All discussions that need to be had but possibly under the next government and closer to the next licence fee settlement.
Anyway the battle of the polls made me think of one of my favourite sketches from one of my favourite sitcoms – Yes, Minister, where Sir Humphrey and Bernard Woolley discuss the subject of opinion polls.
The questions are being asked by Sir Humphrey Appleby, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Administrative Affairs.
“Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?”
“Do you think there is lack of discipline and vigorous training in our Comprehensive Schools?”
“Do you think young people welcome some structure and leadership in their lives?”
“Do they respond to a challenge?”
“Might you be in favor of reintroducing National Service?”
Having got an answer with on line of questioning, Sir Humphrey changes tack and has a go from the other point of view.
“Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?”
“Are you unhappy about the growth of armaments?”
“Do you think there’s a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?”
“Do you think its wrong to force people to take up arms against their will?”
“Would you oppose the introduction of National Service?”
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