Should the BBC license fee be scrapped – consider the for and against arguments and pick a side.
The BBC License fee costs viewers £145.50 a year and brings the BBC an approximate annual revenue of £3.5 billion. Yet £11 million of that money is wasted sending out letters to people who don’t pay a tv license (*1). The BBC remind us, on their website (BBC-Inside the BBC), that the TV license costs just under 40p per day and has only increased by $10 in the past 9 years and is now frozen at it’s current price until 2017.
Let’s compare this to Netflix whose subscription equates to between 20p and 30p (approx.) per day, depending on how many screens you choose to view on, or Amazon Prime subscription which works out at approx 22p per day.
I personally believe the BBC License fee should be scrapped. Not that I want us to lose the BBC , and some of the amazing television programs they produce, I just feel times have moved forward and the idea of a legally enforced ‘license’ is a little outdated. We live in an age where less and less people watch television in it’s conventional form. Most people choose to watch programmes, at their convenience, online and the window to do this with BBC programmes is getting smaller and smaller. After 30 days all BBC shows now become archived and you have to pay a fee to watch them (*2). This seems strange if our license fee is paying to make them in the first place, why should customers need be charged twice?
Also with services like Netflix and Amazon Prime you can opt in and out. If you are not going to be watching for a while, or are struggling with your finances, you can take a break for a month or two or cancel altogether. With the TV license there is no such luxury and even if you opt out and decide to unplug your tv aerial and only watch television programmes online, after their transmission, you will still be hounded to prove you are not doing anything ‘illegal’. As someone without a TV license I have had more than one visit by TV license representatives wanting to enter my property and inspect my television and question me about my viewing practices. This seems a little invasive and I have read many stories online of heavy-handed representatives barging their way into homes, without permission, when they have no actual authority to behave in such a manner (*3).
Many people believe that if ITV and Channel 4 can run perfectly well gaining their revenue through advertising, then maybe it is time for the BBC to follow suit. The BBC has always rebuffed this argument with concerns about the general public being brainwashed by advertising and the BBC needing to remain impartial and untarnished by such things, but as more and more product placement appears in BBC television shows, intentional or not, I’m not sure this argument holds much weight.
Not that i’m even sure that the BBC needs to be sponsored at all, as it now has several other sources of income. In 1995 the BBC formed BBC Worldwide, a subsidiary of the BBC set up to sell their shows for broadcast abroad with the aim of supplementing the income received by the BBC through the licence fee (*4). In 2013/14 BBC Worldwide generated headline profits of £157.4 million and headline sales of £1,042.3 million and returned £173.8m to the BBC (*5). They also sell television formats to be ‘Americanized’. Strictly Come Dancing became Dancing with the Stars and the BBC’s four episode run of House of Cards became a major show for Netflix. But it’s not just America that these formats are sold to, it is very much an international enterprise. Profits like these, combined with sales of their weekly magazine The Radio Times and the huge increase in BBC dvd and memorabilia sales, make me wonder if customers should actually be getting some monetary return from their investment in the BBC rather than being charged a annual fee to view it?
*1:£3.7bn in licence fees in 2012/3 from more than 25 million licences with collection costs of just 3% of revenue according to a TV Licensing spokesperson quoted in The Huffington Post UK 25/04/2014 17:01 BST