A review into all apsects of the BBC is underway. Do we need the BBC in our rapidly changing media landscape?
The BBC is funded by the compulsory TV licence fee, worth £3.7bn per year and enforced with criminal sanctions. But all that is under review. This funding model is guaranteed until charter renewal in 2027, but change may come earlier than that. We live with a rapidly changing media landscape. Many young people do not use their TVs to watch any BBC output. The BBC must offer free licences to over-75s who receive pension credit, adding to its costs. Therefore, funding looks uncertain, political scrutiny is getting more intense. What does that mean for all aspects of the BBC? Here are my comments on an interesting discussion in Influence magazine, 2Q 2020.
Is the BBC impartial?
I have noticed left-of-centre bias in major news shows. For example, on Newsnight Emily Maitlis shared her personal views about breaking lockdown rules as if they were statements of fact. On the Today programme in May, the presenter introduced Professor Susan Michie as a member of the SAGE committee but did not mention her political affiliations. So there may be bias sometimes in the choice of guests and a relatively narrow range of views are heard on the BBC.
The government did not like some of the BBC’s general election coverage and emboldened by a landslide victory, the government may try to reduce the role of the BBC or reduce government co-operation. Ministers were banned from appearing on the Today programme for a few months until the lockdown took hold. Has Coronavirus given the BBC new confidence and a wider appreciation of its role?
If we all agree we still need the BBC, could it be funded through general taxation? It would probably receive less income that way. So could it supplement its income from a subscription service? Ar premium entertainment channel would show Strictly Come Dancing and flagship drama series. Many people think the public would not pay for yet another sreaming service. Britbox is not very successful, not many people want to pay for it. What about people who simply cannot afford another subscription?
I agree with Influence’s verdict. “With coronavirus set to dominate the agenda for months ahead, and Brexit, climate change and financial turmoil continuing to rage in the background, it’s unlikely that the government will have the bandwidth or appetite to overhaul the BBC radically in the short term.”
More about the BBC’s future is here https://www.ft.com/content/9e7f0964-62c6-11ea-b3f3-fe4680ea68b5