back to article Who's going to pay for Britain's Aunty Beeb to carry on? Broadband users, broadcaster suggests to government

The BBC has floated the idea of replacing its licence fee with a broadband levy in its submission to a government consultation. The licence fee system imposes a £154.50 charge on every UK household with a television receiver. The model, which generated £3.69bn for the BBC in its fiscal '19, dates back to 1923, and is used to …

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  1. theExecutive

    April Fool

    HEh!

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Re: April Fool

      Unfortunately even if it was, I wouldn't be at all surprised at the suggestion of such a levy.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: April Fool

      Sadly not. The BBC's problem is it wants to keep it's jacuzzi filled. If public service broadcasting were changed to a 'free' channel + subscription option, it risks losing some percentage of the almost £5bn a year it makes from the combination of licence fee + commercial activities. That's also a challenge given cross-subsidisation, ie how shows like say, Dr Who are financed. So how much is funded by the licence fee, and how much from commercial activities.

      It's one of those areas where Beebonomics ties itself into complicated knots. It claims to have saved millions in 'real cash' terms, it claims to have cut millions in costs, it's commercial tentacles have been vital in keeping the licence fee down.. Yet the licence fee keeps increasing, and the BBC keeps demanding more.

      But it's argued for a continuation of it's current regressive funding model for years. Shifting it's funding to a tax on broadband or electricity would obviously increase the costs of those services, not to mention conveniently removing any currently legal avoidance. I have no desire to fund the BBC*, so don't watch it, and don't have any stuff installed or operated for any purpose under the current law. I certainly have no desire to be forced to fund it.

      A logical solution is to pare back the BBC to a PSB channel, so free to air news & current affairs, and maybe some entertainment. Fund that from taxation, and let people who really do value the BBC pay £10/month for the extras. The BBC has spent millions on market research to claim how much the public values it, and in some cases value it higher than the current licence fee amount. So if that's true, those people would be more than happy to voluntarily pay Aunty. Based on it's own research, it has nothing to fear.

      *Initially due to the heavy handed way the BBC's goon squad tried to enforce collection, subsequently due to realising it's dishonesty wrt climate change and energy. And amusingly, it's starting to appear a little sceptical regarding Covid modelling, dodgy stats, and misplaced trust in 'experts'..

      1. Bearson

        Re: April Fool

        There's a lot of disinformation regarding what the BBC has control over. When the license fee is set, the BBC board pitch how much they think they need under A, B and C scenarios and the government can pick and choose what they fund. The license fee is set by the government, not the BBC.

        The enforcement officers are not employed by the BBC, the beeb has no control over how they enforce the license fee payment. They also don't get money back from the commercial activities you're talking about, that money goes to BBC Worldwide who do not share back funding.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: April Fool

          There's a lot of disinformation regarding what the BBC has control over.

          Indeed. Often provided by that esteemed organ itself..

          The enforcement officers are not employed by the BBC, the beeb has no control over how they enforce the license fee payment.

          Utter bollocks..

          http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/21/part/4

          The BBC is responsible for the sale & collection activities, as that Act shows. The BBC does however like to hide behind the veil of 'TV Licensing' even though that's just the collections wing of the BBC. As the only entity legally able to collect payments, it obviously has full control over how that's achieved. Ok, it does that by subcontracting to the likes of Crapita, but they can only act under the authority of the BBC.

          They also don't get money back from the commercial activities you're talking about, that money goes to BBC Worldwide who do not share back funding.

          More bollocks-

          https://www.bbcstudios.com/about/about-us/

          But we also assist the BBC’s public service mission by reinvesting our profits back into the BBC. Over the last seven years, we’ve generated revenues of £1.4bn and returned £200m annually to the BBC Group.

          Although that's again back to Beebonomics and financial engineering. Again if it's commercial activities and sale of licence fee paid content were so stellar, then the licence fee could be reduced, not continually increased.

          Funny how that works, every year the commercial tentacles grow, but never enough to reduce the tax..

        2. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: April Fool

          They also don't get money back from the commercial activities you're talking about, that money goes to BBC Worldwide who do not share back funding.

          Yes, but that's a chosen internal structure rather than two actually separated entities that require to be separated.

          I can very easily split myself into Lout (uk), Lout (my living room), Lout (bathroom inc) etc, but in reality my reasons for doing so are fictitious. BBC has a massive back catalog, which despite having been paid by us to make, it insists is a commercially separate entity and so we must pay again for box sets of things we already paid them to make.

          The future of the BBC as a whole unit is purely commercial, which is how it has chosen to manifest most of its interests, simply because much of the public no longer trust it, they no longer value it, the output isn't high enough quality in many cases, and the price is disproportionate (guardian TV passes for the News at Ten, its days as the Blair Broadcasting Corporation, its 24x7 British Broadcasting Corbynism of recent years).

          BBC voluntarily used to discipline Clarkson for minor transgressions such that he was on a final warning by the time he did something that should have been disciplined, and had to be sacked, thereby losing the corporation £x00M's. That's hundreds of millions I'm simply not minded to make up, so they're going to need to live on less.

          Like most of the public sector, the BBC wastes money hand over fist because if they don't spend it all every year then they may not get it again the next year. There's no drive towards operational efficiency, self sufficiency, and no focus on why they exist.

          Its the 3 P's. Pay -> Pensions -> Provision of services. All UK public sector entities get that backwards. You can only spend a pound once, so the focus needs to always be Provision of services -> Pay -> Pensions.

          Sorry Auntie, I've got no sympathy and nor do most folks.... especially not when I can get Netflix for a lot less per year.

          1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

            Re: April Fool

            I don't know how you established that 'most folks' feel the same way as you. I don't like the BBC's news operation and the light entertainment isn't of interest to me, but the documentary and children's output is second to none. Plus, where on Netflix can I sign up for multiple local, national, and international radio services with no commercials?

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: April Fool

              "multiple local, national, and international radio services with no commercials?"

              That's the bit most people forget when they shout "subscription model!"

              If they went that way, and I choose to subscribe to BBC Inc, why should my subscription pay for free radio for everyone? What's the answer to funding some of the most listened to stations in the UK? There is no subscription broadcast radio service that I know of that I can listen to on a cheap FM radio or in the car.

          2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: April Fool

            "... its days as the Blair Broadcasting Corporation, its 24x7 British Broadcasting Corbynism of recent years.

            I think you are talking about another broadcaster. The BBC news and current affairs I know and have avoided for many years is uncritical of whatever government is in power in Westminster*, with a general slant towards conservatism at best, and Toryism at worst.

            *When it comes to Scotlad, the BBC is extremely anti-government. Its anti-SNP stance looks very biased, and don't mention the prosecution-biased reporting of Alex Salmond's trial!

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: April Fool

            "its days as the Blair Broadcasting Corporation, its 24x7 British Broadcasting Corbynism of recent years)."

            And yet Labour supporters claim it ToryVision! That must mean they are doing a good job of being neutral.

            1. AlbertH
              Black Helicopters

              Re: April Fool

              The BBC that I knew (back in the 1970s, when I worked there) died in the late 80s. It was replaced with a Politically Correct, socially manipulative, Common Purpose-riddled organisation that would routinely advertise jobs for "non-male, non-white" applicants. They have not been "fit for purpose" for the last 30 years. We now - finally - have a government who are prepared to do something about this.

              The broadband levy is a joke. If they were to add a "BBC Fee" to broadband charges, it would be no time at all until they decided to add an "Email Tariff", or a "Download Charge"..... It would be just another Tax - like Road Tax - that just ends up in the general pot of taxation. We're already taxed an aggregate of around 70% (if you're a "higher rate" taxpayer) - one of the highest rates in the world. Compared to some countries, we get precious little back for our hard-earned!

      2. Jon Smit

        Re: April Fool

        Everything keeps on increasing, like Sky, who have led the complaints about the BBC licence since they first broadcast.

        The BBC coss £3 a week, Sky at least treble that, before paying extra for every sport they show.

      3. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: April Fool

        @ Jellied Eel:

        +1 for "Beebonomics" :)

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: April Fool

          +1 for "Beebonomics" :)

          Don't forget George Orwell learned his trade at the BBC. It can be fun sometimes to fact-check the BBC's claims of poverty against it's actual published accounts, plus the occasional NAO review.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: April Fool

        In real terms. as adjusted by CPI, the licence fee has fallen from around 2009 until the last couple of years since when it has seen only inflation level rises. It's around 25% cheaper than it was at its highest on that basis.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: April Fool

          In real terms. as adjusted by CPI,

          Wait, wut? Again this is a bit of beebonomics. In really real terms, a couple of things happened. One being a larger than normal licence fee increase to pay for DSO. Another being an instruction to stop wasting money. DSO completed, but licence fee wasn't reduced, instead it became support for rural broadband. The 'efficiency savings' lead to the BBC claiming around '£800m in real-cash' savings. So if true, rather than being a co-production between the BBC's finance and fiction departments, the BBC should be swimming in cash.

          Especially as licence fees are per household, and household growth also gives the BBC a handy windfall, especially as that has no impact on it's costs. Government twigged to that one, hence the freeze on licence fees, since lifted. So 2017's 5-yr plan went back to CPI indexing, even though the BBC still had the DSO money, plus 'savings'. And again, the BBC's costs are unrelated to CPI.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: April Fool

      Germany has been doing it this way for around 15 years, so hardly a surprise that the UK would look at it.

      1. Nick Pettefar

        Re: April Fool

        But German TV is terrible, as any German will tell you.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: April Fool

          German TV can be very good.

          A lot of what is shown on the commercial channels is absolute tripe (licensed versions of US reality TV tripe), but there are a lot of good programs as well, especially on the BBC equivalents (ARD, ZDF etc.).

          I probably watch more original German programming than I do imported US or UK shows.

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          2. This post has been deleted by its author

          3. onemark03

            Re: April Fool

            Here in Germany, your car radio and your PC/laptop are also subject to the broadcasting licence as these are considered capable of receiving German (state) TV programmes, regardless of whether you have a radio, TV set or (internet-capable) computer or not.

            What's worse, every household is subject to the broadcasting fee regardless of whether it has a radio/TVset/internet-capable computer ("media-receiver", if you like) of any kind or not. So you end up paying for a service whether you use it or not. It's never been stated publicly but I suspect this scheme (charging all households) was introduced (only a few years ago) to simplify collection. Previously they used to have inspectors and detector vans.

            I'd be interested to know whether this (or something similar) applies in the UK as well.

            FTR, I don't have a car but I do have a TV set and a PC, so I pay €17.52 a quarter. Fortunately I can deduct this expense from my taxes.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If they're going to apply the licence fee to broadband, then the BBC ought to provide some kind of internet service comparable to their tv and radio offerings of the last few decades.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      For a while, the BBC did offer it's own xDSL service. Which was rather expensive, and had few users, so dropped a few years back. It's also one of those strange things where it may have made sense given the number of remote staff, and a better ability to manage things like contention.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      You mean all their internet based services for example?

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. ikilledbambi

    If the BBC (as they claim) are this national treasure which everyone wants to preserve, then I see no problem with them becoming a subscription service.

    Their own poll suggests that they would have enough willing punters without resorting to being propped up by another business sector.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Or a best of both worlds.

      Keep the fee to pay for BBC news and make "celebrity strictly come dancing in the jungle on ice" a subscription.

      Then the government would be assured there was fair and unbiased reporting of their triumphs, rather than having to rely on the dailyMail and Fox news, without the taint of popularism

    2. Graham Cobb

      The issue isn't so much the money, it is the commercialism.

      The BBC which I value is one which makes shows that are not commercially viable: that cater for minority interests, offer unpopular viewpoints, appeal to limited age groups (all of them, but in narrow bands).

      I value the BBC specifically because I only want to watch a small part of what it produces.

      Its value is in producing content which commercial broadcasters won't touch.

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      If the BBC (as they claim) are this national treasure which everyone wants to preserve, then I see no problem with them becoming a subscription service.

      I worked for a commercial broadcaster who didn't like the license fee. However they also didn't want the BBC taking advertising or sponsorship. Neither did the idea of encryption/subscription go down any better. People apparently might find the idea of two monthly charges unwelcoming and ditch the commercial one. Those Dr Who/Eastenders/Strictly Come Dancing/Blue Planet fans might not want to stop watching those progs. So I asked my management what was the preferred solution and the reply was "[thank God] it's not our problem."

  5. Warm Braw Silver badge

    The British government is now consulting...

    ... on a proposal that has already been examined and found wanting.

    There is clearly an issue of how the BBC should be funded (if at all) in the longer term. In the absence of a concrete proposal for future funding, there is no value in simply undermining the system that currently exists, except as a means of exerting political pressure on the BBC.

    If the BBC is to continue, it can only be on the basis of some form of taxation (and the licence fee is just a form of taxation). Most of those boutique TV production companies that arose from the requirement to commission independent third-party content are now just part of vast international conglomerates. Even Murdoch has thrown in the towel. The BBC is just too small to survive in the commercial market.

    The BBC needs the economies of scale it gets from charging a large number of people a relatively modest fee - it's the only way it can provide the range of output that it does. If it becomes a subscription-based service, it will be asset-stripped of its back-catalogue and shut down within a couple of years. Personally, I think that would be a shame - at this time above all others we should hopefully be able to see that the value in our shared assets, whether it is the BBC or the NHS, is precisely the fact that they're shared.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: The British government is now consulting...

      ... on a proposal that has already been examined and found wanting.

      Obviously not. The Perry Review had a wider remit, but the fact that there's a current consultation stems from some of the issues raised by that review, and subsequent developments.

      The consultation is pretty narrowly defined though, ie pretty much if the current system is decriminalised. That's not without risks. Currently the BBC's staff are commissioned based on licence sales and 'prosecutions', so there's a direct incentive to earn commissions. Which has lead to fraud & perjury. Or just profits, ie evaders may be fined, but also charged 'costs' and a victims surcharge.

      Proposal's to make it a civil matter, and could be dealt with via a Fixed Penalty Notice. Perry reckoned the FPN should be £500 to have the same deterrent effect as the current 'up to £1000' fine + costs, but actual fines average around £170. So an FPN could mean a 3x increase in penalty, with no easy option to means test it. That makes it even more regressive than the current system.

      And then if the BBC's enfarcement officers are allowed to issue FPNs, and earn commission on those, that might increase temptation to issue. And if that follows the same model as other FPNs, then it effectively reverses any burden of proof and increases the risk if you dare to appeal the FPN. Especially as there's usually no real evidence of any offence other than a confession. That of course could change if the BBC was required to show evidence from TV 'detectors', but those are currently only used to track low flying bacon.

      There is clearly an issue of how the BBC should be funded (if at all) in the longer term. In the absence of a concrete proposal for future funding, there is no value in simply undermining the system that currently exists, except as a means of exerting political pressure on the BBC.

      Well, the BBC exerts political pressure of it's own, so this is perhaps self-inflicted. Otherwise it's sensible to ask if the BBC really needs £150 per household per year, with a CPI+ index, even though most of it's input costs bear little resemblance to what's in the CPI basket.. Which ironically includes the cost of a BBC licence, making the tax both circular and regressive.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: The British government is now consulting...

        So long as it isn't politically motivated then.

        Perhaps the Labour Party could suggest decriminalisation of bank robbery to address the over-financialisation of the UK economy

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: The British government is now consulting...

          Perhaps the Labour Party could suggest decriminalisation of bank robbery to address the over-financialisation of the UK economy

          Arguably the de-regulation of financial markets in the 1980's allowed entire banks to be 'stolen'.

  6. Ryan 7

    I'd honestly be OK with it being tacked-on to Council Tax

    But there's something icky about the idea of medding with my access to the Internet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'd honestly be OK with it being tacked-on to Council Tax

      That's how it works in France.

      1. alexinalnwick
        Thumb Up

        Re: I'd honestly be OK with it being tacked-on to Council Tax

        In France, with the option to say "I don't have a tv", so don't charge me. Check visits are made, but not by the likes of Crapita. (I only had 1 in my 7 years and I was out at the time, so tante pis!)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'd honestly be OK with it being tacked-on to Council Tax

          Never heard of them paying a visit in recent history. No Need. Shops dob you in when you buy a TV.

          1. Handlebars

            Re: I'd honestly be OK with it being tacked-on to Council Tax

            They left me a hand written letter last year, to let me know a real person had been round to check that I really don't have a telly.

  7. steamnut

    BBC Licence..

    If the BBC really do think that 5 million viewer watch East Enders each week then simple make it subscription only and charge £5 each of the four episodes per week. That is worth around £5.2bn per year. That exceeds the £3.7bn they currently get. Add 50p for Antiques Roadshow and £1 for Question Time and they will be rich beyond their wildest dreams.

    The reality is, the moment they charge for 'Enders, the viewing figures will drop like a stone. It is time the BBC had to earn their revenue and stop treating it as regular income with little justificaiton. And why do we pay for the BBC World Service?

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: BBC Licence..

      You could ask the same questions about schools, hospitals, roads, museums, libraries, parks...

      There are private versions of all of those things but they don't deliver a universal and comprehensive service.

      And why do we pay for the BBC World Service?

      We have always paid for it - largely because governments have seen a security benefit in getting positive messages about the UK to countries will state-controlled media. It used to be paid for by a grant from the Foreign Office, but the burden was transferred to the licence fee (along with the funding of over-75s) as part of the government's "magic money tree" mendacity.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BBC Licence..

        More truthfully the world service is part of the overseas propaganda arm of HMG, as for those 'positive messages' we could do without those attracting further illegal migrants!

    2. dickiemint

      Re: BBC Licence..

      The Licence Fee does NOT have a penalty of prison for non-payment. Prison is for non payment of fines - it's a contempt of court thing.

      The Licence Fee pays for World Service and S4C both government things foisted on the beeb by government.

      Consumers pay a darn sight more for commercial tv stations through adverts.

      And newspapers cost far more per day than the License Fee!

  8. codejunky Silver badge

    Ha

    Let the people who use the BBC pay for it and let everyone else get what they want without propping it up.

    1. Valeyard

      Re: Ha

      especially given the outrageous salaries some of the presenters are on, there's a cutback right there. Chris Evans and Gary Lineker over a million a year for starters

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Ha

        Chris Evans? Do the BBC pay salaries of Virgin Radio UK presenters?

        1. Valeyard

          Re: Ha

          2019 report mate, I'm not their payroll team

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Ha

      Let the people who use the BBC pay for it and let everyone else get what they want without propping it up.

      Sorry but that idea is fundamentally flawed. Channels 3, 4 & 5 are paid for by advertisements. Even if I don't have a television if something I buy has been advertised on television then a part of what it costs me goes to the advertising and television companies, notwithstanding the fact that not having a television means that I did not see the advertisement in the first place.

      In short I would be "propping up the independents" even though I was not watching their (often horrible) programmes.

      No point in replacing one wrong with another...

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Ha

        @Commswonk

        "Sorry but that idea is fundamentally flawed. Channels 3, 4 & 5 are paid for by advertisements."

        Thereby showing that the BBC tax should shove off. Unless the BBC is undesirable or incompetent it should be capable of continuing as all the other channels do.

        "Even if I don't have a television if something I buy has been advertised on television then a part of what it costs me goes to the advertising and television companies"

        And you choose to buy it. Not only that but if it has any costs they are incorporated in the price of the product/service you buy. So special little princess BBC has no excuse for the BBC tax.

        "notwithstanding the fact that not having a television means that I did not see the advertisement in the first place."

        And by not watching BBC people get robbed to support that singular protected source for obviously no good reason (as you have demonstrated with other channels).

        "In short I would be "propping up the independents" even though I was not watching their (often horrible) programmes.

        No point in replacing one wrong with another..."

        Since the odd one out is the BBC it would be no point allowing such a wrong when others get by without the BBC tax.

      2. Neiljohnuk

        Re: Ha

        Whereas the BBC only does self promoting adverts, well stuff the braindead brainwashing colusionists scrap the licence fee and make it a selectable level of programming and subscription. There are lies, dam lies, and the BBC.

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