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Tomorrow's BBC: Future Funding seminar

On 16 October, the Trust held its second Charter Review seminar to look at the issues related to BBC funding in the next charter period and beyond. The public event was chaired by the BBC’s Business Editor, Kamal Ahmed, and was held in partnership with the Media Policy Project at the London School of Economics.

At the outset of the event, the BBC’s Chairman, Rona Fairhead, outlined recently published research and consultation findings from the Trust, which demonstrated clearly that the principle of the BBC as a universal service is important to audiences and is inextricably linked to the method by which the BBC is funded. Methods which could potentially undermined the BBC’s ability to serve all audiences, free at the point of use, were less favourable to respondents to the Trust’s first phase of Charter Review consultation and within the Trust’s qualitative and quantitative audience research.

Opening speech by Trust Chairman, Rona Fairhead

Our event panel consisted of experts including David Fernández-Quijada (European Broadcasting Union), Prof. Charlie Beckett (LSE), Dr Helen Weeds (University of Essex), James Heath (Director of Policy, BBC) and Nicholas Prettejohn (Chair of the BBC Trust’s Value for Money Committee). Together they explored a range of topics from the mechanism of funding the BBC, through to efficiency, value for money and the role of the BBC as the guardian of the licence fee.

Panel discussion

Audience members were invited to ask questions of the panel, or give their comments. Among those who gave their views a large number remarked on how the BBC’s funding is linked to its independence. The summer licence fee settlement, where the BBC was charged with adopting the over-75s licence fee concession was cited as a concern of many participants. Others questioned whether the Charter Review process had already been fixed as a result of the settlement, and other cautioned about the licence fee being used to pay for other government projects (commonly referred to as ‘topslicing’ of the fee).

Others questioned the framing of the debate to date – with some arguing that the focus on the scale and scope is not correct way to approach BBC funding. Instead they believed debate should look at whether the BBC performs well against its overall mission and purpose.

Some in the audience disagreed with Rona’s view that reform of the licence fee system should be had at a later point, when technological developments and audience use of the media are both further advanced. Some attendees queried why the BBC is not having this debate now given the rise of on demand services and the increased adoption of different devices.

You can watch the debate in full here:

Audience debate

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