Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall, today defended the Licence Fee that funds the Corporation and rejected claims that the broadcaster should consider moving to a subscription or advertising model, saying that such changes would prevent the BBC from giving the British public what they want.
“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,” wrote Hall in a column in today’s Daily Mirror.
“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 drama 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.”
Hall says he believes the only way the BBC can continue to “offer something for everyone” is to keep the £145.50 annual Licence Fee, admitting that the Corporation “has always moved with the times” and could “be modernised again” if the Government were to support such plans.
He argues that setting up a subscription model would be prohibitively expensive, but even more importantly it would “lose one of the things that people most value about the BBC – the way it creates great programmes that we can all enjoy.” He cites the fact that only 1 in 25 viewers in the US saw the much heralded finale of Breaking Bad on subscription cable network AMC, compared to around 1 in 5 in the UK who watched the series three end to BBC’s Sherlock.
Hall also believes that no advertising “is one of the things people most like about the BBC” and that it allows the Corporation to make shows that appeal to “a huge range of interests” rather than pandering to the wants and desires of ad men and their shareholders. He says that a BBC with ads could also damage Channel 4 and ITV, which wouldn’t be good for British TV.
Despite TV changing fast with on-demand and catch-up becoming more prevalent, Hall points out that 90% of all television in Britain is still watched live, and that the BBC is a core part of bringing the nation together. He cites the example of 15 million people watching England play Italy in the World Cup after midnight as demonstrating how the BBC allows the nation to “share an experience.”
Hall, who became DG in April 2013, says that the licence fee “has plenty of life left” and that it was the only way to ensure that “we are here 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.”