Friday, January 19, 2007

Can the BBC survive without reform?

The news this week that the BBC Licence Fee is to rise by 3%, to £151 over the next five years, will be received with deep concern by many individuals, not least pensioners, the unemployed and those hard working families on low incomes – especially those who are already feeling the pinch of higher energy and mortgage costs.

Whilst there is a general consensus that the BBC does provide good quality and impartial programming we cannot ignore the argument that in today’s world greater choice is offered by other service providers such as Cable and Sky. It is natural that many people who subscribe to these services, at a premium often in excess of £40 per month, begrudge paying the licence fee. It is mistakenly viewed by many as simply a tax on television – and that is understandable up to a point, since every household has to pay the licence fee whether you watch the BBC or not.

The stark reality is that the BBC now has to compete with 24-hour news, entertainment, sports, documentaries, movies and more. The only way that the BBC can compete with this, in its current form, is to fund it through an increase in the licence fee. Perhaps the time has come to open the BBC up to corporate advertising? By this I don’t mean that there need be commercials on the scale shown by some other channels, since this is one of the factors that maintains the BBC’s uniqueness. This could, however, be achieved by corporate sponsorship of individual programmes. By doing this, the BBC could maintain its unique position - offering relevant and good quality, impartial programming whilst, at the same time, reducing the cost to the overall population.

Richie Northcote
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