BBC rejects subscription fee calls

Tony Hall BBC director general Lord Hall will address funding issues in front of MPs in the coming months

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The BBC has rejected calls to introduce a voluntary subscription fee for its services.

Responding to a government inquiry into the future of the BBC, it argued the £145.50 licence fee was the "most effective way" to fund the corporation.

It warned a subscription model - where users only pay for the services they want - would exclude many who could not afford it.

It added the licence fee was funding a public service everyone could use.

The government inquiry comes ahead of the licence fee and royal charter renewals in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

BBC director general Lord Hall and BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten are expected to address the corporation's funding issues in front of MPs for the Commons culture, media and sport committee in the coming months.

Also present will be former Channel 5 chief executive David Elstein, who has said introducing a BBC subscription would allow viewers and listeners more choice over which services they pay for.

'Increasing costs'

However in its written submission to the committee, the BBC said introducing alternative funding methods would have "significant drawbacks".

"Subscription would turn the BBC into a commercial operator with an incentive to provide services that maximise revenues and/or profits," it said.

"The evidence suggests a subscription model would be likely to reduce the payment base, increasing costs for consumers who remain and excluding many in society who could not afford to pay."

The corporation also dismissed the suggestion of funding by advertising, saying the quality of its programming would suffer.

"If the objective of the BBC were to maximise advertising revenues, the BBC would shape its programming to maximise the benefits to advertisers rather than to audiences," it said.

It added the current absence of advertising was a "key characteristic [audiences] value about the BBC".


The BBC also argued against sharing the licence fee with other broadcasters, saying it needed the current level of funding to fulfil its public service remit and future strategy - including the proposed 30-day extension catch-up window on the iPlayer.

It said the fee offered a "stable funding mechanism", allowing it to take risks on programming other commercial rivals could not support, as well as safeguarding its independence.

There have been calls previously from some politicians and industry figures for the licence fee - worth some £3.7bn a year - to be split amongst other broadcasters for public service content.

However Channel 4 chief executive David Abraham told the Financial Times he would rather protect his channel's freedom and act "with utter impunity because we are not looking over our shoulders", than receive the money.

Current research shows 96% of UK adults use one or more of the BBC's services each week, costing 40p per household, per day.

According to a Ipsos Mori poll conducted for the BBC in November, 47% of adults said they were happy with the licence fee as the BBC's main source of funding, with 27% preferring advertising, 22% choosing a subscription-only service and the rest undecided.

A similar poll conducted in 2004 found 31% in favour of the licence fee, 31% for advertising and 36% a subscription service.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    I actually like the fact that the licence fee allows the production of niche programmes that would not be commercially viable. I believe this helps to avoid the dumbing down of programming. You'd never find Only Connect on commercial tv.

    I think the regulation of, and subscription to, the BBC, are two seperate arguments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    The licence fee guarantees the BBC's political & commercial independence. It is a model which should be used for more of our public services.

    No ads on the Beeb. I despise them. I rarely watch the ad channels because of them.

    No subscription for the Beeb. Subs = a hike in costs, a hike in profits for shareholders (unacceptable) and a collapse in quality.

    Yes to the licence fee!

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    @83. Signofthetimes

    If sky is anything to go by I would continue to pay license fee if only to stop the insane amount of adverts on the channels that sky customers pay for premium channels!

    I find it ironic that £70 /month /household isn't enough for sky to run without peddling adverts


    Most of the money Sky receives through subscriptions goes straight to millionaire sportsmen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    I honestly think there is a beeb in name only these days.
    Things are run by beeb worldwide, beeb america and beeb global Ltd.
    Programmes are made by production companies, the website is delivered by ATOS and the fee collected by Capita.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Iloathe the labour party/bbc revolving door. for e.g. that ex labour wonk who went to be something on news night and tweeted embarrassing rubbish about one of the guests on it.
    plus the pro-animal lobby types that populate country file and spring watch

    totally biased to the pc left. its a north london view of britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    It's probably best to hold off major changes to subscription fees until the affect of digital TV providers, such as netflix, and digital radio roll out are fully understood. Obviously, should Scotland gain independence there is another debate to be had, but that's not a certainty (or probability) at the moment. I agreed that Radio 1 needs revamping, to be like Radio 6.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    76 superal1966
    "Soon the weather will be accused of being left/right wing."

    Considering the number of peope who dismiss climate change as "left-wing", you're not far off!

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Re: @1, @3-@19 @23-@39, @41-@44 @46-@52, @56-@61

    .... have you forgotten Doctor Who?????

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    The BBC has lost its' way, it is a colonial attitude, tries to deliver too much and patronises to insult levels, Nepotism is a tradition as is being PC. The directors take the urine on pay and perks and they operate a heavy brigade who assume you have a tv licence need until you prove otherwise! All in all, they are like the GPO was before it was broken up, high time the BBC was restyled 'n pruned

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    I'm happy to pay around £10 a month for the BBC when you consider the outrageous prices Sky charge for their dreaful crap.

    The BBC is a national asset and we should be glad to have it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    If sky is anything to go by I would continue to pay license fee if only to stop the insane amount of adverts on the channels that sky customers pay for premium channels!

    I find it ironic that £70 /month /household isn't enough for sky to run without peddling adverts

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I pay for a TV licence so I can watch nonBBC channels. Because I am forced to pay for the BBC I watch the occassional BBC programme but almost certainly wouldnt otherwise

    I'm not surprised the BBC want this cushy number to continue

    As for this website, it is frequently very slow to report events, an example being the Xmasday hack into the BBC server, reported in the US days before

    Not impressed

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    I would prefer a subscription based upon what I want to view, rather than pay a fixed sum for what amounts to utter tripe suited to the brain-dead.

    Christmas TV this year was as appalling as that in previous years - endless repeats of repeats, and celebrity this-and-that dancing and cooking. Come on BBC, you have a wealth of good stuff tucked away in your archives. Why not show that instead?

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Well,they would say that would't they--a bit like turkeys voting for christmas lunch.
    Mostly,the bbc offers medium to good programmes.
    The great exception is in the news,wherein the bias is so blatant as to
    warrant the people responsible be suspended {without pay!] until an unbiased system can be found.
    Far too many "heads of department/executives/directors" being paid far too much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    £145 pa. to be set up for the next war? Outstanding value.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Disappointed. Time for plan b - an increase of the license fee.

    Raising it by a small amount (say to £190 or £200) will help the BBC improve the quality of its currently mediocre content. I do enjoy the BBC, but the lack of money is evident with the output they give us these days.

    Or else use some logic & go down the route of foreign ads on BBC TV & make foreigners pay for the BBC for us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Tories...hands off the BBC! Hands off the UK's public services!

    The BBC is the best broadcaster in the world. It is one of the few things left in the country which makes me proud to be British.

    Since the rapid expansion of the commercial sector (and with it - in my view - a nose diving in quality), I value the BBC now more than ever before.

    Maintain the status quo. Keep the licence fee!

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    62. Drunken Hobo

    People have developed a knee-jerk reaction of accusing anything that differs from their opinion of being right or left-wing depending on their own political affiliations. Soon the weather will be accused of being left/right wing

    I feel the BBC is a useful source for news, although occasionally some news stories are given far too much coverage meaning other news is lost or buried

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    I wonder how many marketing directors the BBC had in, say, the 1960s compared to how many it has now. Still, I suppose times change and it has to keep up, but I would still reckon that there are more than are absolutely necessary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Anyone remember "Points of View" on a Sunday?
    This article, and the BBC's attitude to its own funding reminds me of when, for decades, the BBC felt it was fine to have a smug presenter (Terry Wogan/Anne Robinson) mock the views of its audience with a condescending smirk for 10 minutes a week.
    We have no say in the matter.BBC knows what's best for you.
    That will be £150 a year please No thanks.


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