The BBC‘s structure of not airing commercials or charging subscription fees has always been one that has been questioned/admired around the world based on how corporately-minded you are, and it is a structure that is not going any time soon, according to the public broadcaster’s director-general.
Tony Hall, writing a guest column for the Daily Mirror, claimed that the Licence Fee approach (of £145.50 annually per household) that enables them to do this is still the relevant way forward, with subscriptions or advertising not only damaging commercial competitors in those fields by becoming a new and established alternative, but also preventing the British public from getting what they want out of a public broadcaster, which is “…great programmes that we can all enjoy”.
He wrote: “In the age of iPlayer, YouTube, Twitter and free services online, some people say the Licence Fee has had its day. I think they are wrong. Look at what you get in return for a fee that works out at 40p a day – Strictly, EastEnders, Doctor Who, Sherlock, the World Cup, Olympics, Match of the Day, CBeebies and CBBC, new dramas like Happy Valley and Line of Duty, the best natural history programmes, all of the BBC’s radio stations, the BBC website and iPlayer, news, sport and weather apps, and impartial news from around the world.”
Claiming that retaining the fee is the only way in which the BBC can retain control of their traditions and continue offering ‘something for everyone’, it was noted that the organization ‘has always moved with the times’ and would be able to be ‘modernised again’ should the need arise, as had been done with stopping radio licence fees and the introduction of colour TV fees. One of those measures is believed to be introducing the fee to viewers who have forgone TV licences in favour of watching all content through streaming, most prominently on the free BBC iPlayer platform.
Hall also points out the BBC’s accessibility as a popular factor, with the statistic that 1-in-25 viewers in America witnessed the final episode of cult series Breaking Bad through subscription cable network AMC last year, as opposed to a 1-in-5 UK audience for the Sherlock season 3 finale on the BBC. He added a further defence of traditional ‘live’ TV viewing, citing that 90% of all British television is still viewed live (compared with an ‘only slowly rising’ 2% for iPlayer-exclusive BBC households), with the audience numbers of 15 million for an Italy v England 2014 FIFA World Cup football match running past midnight a prime example of the BBC providing a means for a nation to “share an experience”.
Hall, in his role of director-general since 2013, has claimed that there is still plenty of life left for the licence fee, and that it is the best way of ensuring the organisation remain for years to come, in order to continue their ever-present goal of managing to “…serve everyone, whatever their background, sex or colour, the BBC needs to ensure its staff and presenters reflect modern Britain. The BBC’s job is to deliver to you. Not to politicians or the powerful. Some 96% of the population watch, listen or use the BBC every week. They choose the BBC 140 million times a day. Those 140 million decisions wouldn’t happen without our commitment to serve everyone.”
They could still do with paying certain members of their on-screen and behind-the-scenes ‘talent’ a little less, though, think how much serving could be done with that money…