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Thursday, September 10, 2015

What should replace the BBC licence fee?

That the UK Government is considering replacing the BBC licence fee has been confirmed by this report in the Guardian in which the they say that culture secretary John Whittingdale has offered support to replace it with a household levy collected in a similar way to the council tax. However, he has told MPs that no decision had been made ahead of legislation expected next year.

The BBC itself has backed the household levy system, outlined in the government’s green paper on the future of the BBC, as one way of modernising the current system:

The culture secretary said such a system could help tackle the issue of non-payment, which is currently a criminal officence, as well as introducing a progressive element absent from the flat-rate licence fee.

In wide-ranging comments, he also indicated that “all things being equal” the licence fee would rise in line with inflation following a controversial funding deal agreed between the government and the BBC, but his comments were attacked by political opponents as spreading further doubt.

Asked about the possible introduction of a household levy, Whittingdale said that the “simplest” of a “number of different options” was “instead of having to pay separately, you could pay it at the same time as another bill, such as your council tax bill. It would make it easier to collect, it would also I think address concerns about evasion”.

Whittingdale's idea is that the system should be linked to the council tax, which is based on house size, so that it could be levied in a progressive way rather than a one-size-fits-all rate of £145.50. Nevertheless, there is a danger that such a levy could be viewed as another poll tax in disguise. And what happens if a household does not currently need to pay a licence, something that may be more common as people access media through the internet?

I have no solution to this. We do need to secure the future of the BBC and do so in a sustainable way. The licence fee is going to become less and less relevant and more difficult to collect precisely because of changes in technology and the way we consume multi-media. Perhaps a levy linked to house-size is a way forward. What do others think?
Make the 'licence fee' a way of buying a membership stake in the BBC as a John Lewis style mutual where members have voting rights.
You need to get rid of the heavy handed one size fits all model with a mechanism that rewards popular high quality programing and reflects the mode that people use to access the content. I propose you split the license fee into three componants for pricing purposes. A user paying the Full subscription to these three items would recieve a service equivalent to the current service.
The majority of the cost is split between a television fee and a fee for on demand services, then there would also be a small unavoidable fee factored into council tax for the services described in the last subsection described below.
All fees would be charged on a per household basis.
The optional television component gets you access to all tv broadcasts and is paid annually.
The optional on demand services would be paid either monthly, quarterly or annually for either the full package or thematic sub packages (similar to the thematic catagories that already exist within iPlayer). Progressive discounts would be in place for commitment to longer periods. Each house hold gets a log in that gives them access to the content they have subscribed to.
All people with a UK IP would have continued free access to UK archive documentaries, educational programs, news and political broadcasts (including question time! ) that would be paid by the nominal increase in household council tax.
That's my two pence anyway.
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