Search Comment Central
BBC Tiles Gradient

The BBC licence fee is not the only problem

Noel Yaxley
September 9, 2020

The BBC have failed to understand it's audience. This can be reflected in the growing number of people losing interest in what the BBC offers. The official figures show the number of people getting rid of their licence has rocketed. Noel Yaxley argues it's time to reform the BBC.

As one Director General leaves, another one enters. With Lord Hall's departure, in steps Tim Davie. The ever-revolving doors at the BBC are not the only thing turning. Most people's opinions on the institution are as well.

The BBC is need of a serious make-over. Tim Davie has a big job on his hands. One of the biggest problems facing the BBC is one of impartiality. So much so, as the Telegraph reported, he mentioned the word 'impartiality' almost a dozen times in his inaugural speech. Accusations of bias have been levelled against the BBC for years, leading former Director-General Mark Thompson to publicly state that "there was a massive left-wing bias at the BBC."

For example, contempt for those hostile to the E.U have been ingrained within the BBC for years. According to Civitas, between 2005-2015, of the 4,275 guests on Radio 4's Today Programme, only 132 were in favour of leaving the E.U.

This clear issue of bias by selection has had a deleterious effect on how the public perceive the corporation.

A YouGov poll from December revealed that less than half of Britons (44 per cent) trusted what BBC journalists told them. Similar numbers from Ofcom found that 59 per cent found BBC News impartial. This may explain the gradual erosion of its audience figures. During Halls' seven year tenure, viewership drastically declined. According to Statistica, viewership of BBC news has plummeted by a quarter. In 2012 25 million regularly watched news on its channels, by 2019, this figure had dropped to roughly 18 million.

The BBC have failed to understand it's audience. This can be reflected in the growing number of people losing interest in what the BBC offers. The official figures show the number of people getting rid of their licence has rocketed: 860,000 were cancelled in 2017-18 up 62,000 from 798,000 the previous year. Whilst admittedly a relatively small proportion considering 26 million still have one, 2,300 are still cancelled daily. This figure will only continue to rise.

They have also faced growing pressure to retain its younger audience. In an average week, fewer than half of those aged between 16 and 24 watch any BBC content. With almost 13 million active UK accounts, subscription services such as Netflix are quickly catching up with the BBC. Plus, with a sizeable budget of £12 billion to spend on new programming (four times what the BBC spends on its entire TV and Radio output), younger people are ditching the BBC and moving to these rapidly expanding on-demand services.

This haemorrhaging of a key demographic may explain why the BBC have attempted to 'win-back' its younger viewers by appearing to be 'right-on' and progressive. A £100 million campaign has been launched by the institution to promote 'diverse and inclusive content'. The BBC have diversity quotas – a process that is an actual example of racism -where they must fill 20 per cent of roles from under-represented BAME groups. Although, according to the Creative Diversity Network's recent study, the BAME population is better represented on screen than in the country – 23 per cent on screen time compared to 14 per cent of the population. In fact, all targets when it comes to minorities are over-represented at the BBC.

This astronomical and comical waste of money is one reason why the corporation needs wholesale reform. The company have lost over £300 million in lost licence fee revenue, yet feel it is perfectly fine to spend £1 million on stupid things like staff surveys. The sort of thing that can be done online for free. A position branded by MP's and campaigners as a 'colossal waste of money." Or by publishing the extortionate salaries of its highest paid stars, such as the eye watering inflation busting salary of Gary Lineker, whilst he virtue signals about taking in refugees online. This will no doubt incense the 3.7 million over 75's who were stripped of their free licence.

Polls suggest growing animosity towards the licence fee. In 2019, 74 per cent of respondents agreed that the licence-fee should be abolished, whilst another found two thirds supported abolition or reform of the BBC.

So what can be done?

We could start looking at reform in two years when the licence fee is to be reviewed. We could replace the licence fee (or TV ownership tax) with a subscription model, where those that pay can watch whilst those that don't are blocked out. That way there is a natural incentive to attract viewers and provide legitimate objectivity. The iPlayer could also potentially charge for new star-studded shows, much in the way Britbox, the new UK streaming service does for classic BBC shows.

One thing is for certain. It cannot pretend to act like a commercial enterprise by offering huge inflation-busting salaries to its top stars whilst pretending to be a public service broadcaster.

The BBC needs to swallow its pride, have confidence in its product and be prepared to compete on a market level as a subscription-based service. A business that has confidence in its product surely does not require the threat of force for non-payment. If the corporation does not move to a fully commercial operating system I fear its revenue will gradually wither away and we will face the possibility of losing the BBC for good.

Noel Yaxley is a freelance writer and political commentator and his work can be seen in a number of different publications
Most Popular
Image: Pexels / Olga Lioncat
The economy is not doing...
Max Mosley 1
Max Mosley
February 28, 2024
What to read next
Transgender LGBT flag edited
President Biden's executive order on gender identity may seem like a...
Noel Yaxley
February 15, 2021
BLM March edited
The BBC's new initiatives to increase diversity and inclusivity in its...
Noel Yaxley
February 3, 2021
Reform UK Nigel Farage Edited
Nigel Farage has shaken the British political establishment to its core,...
Noel Yaxley
January 25, 2021