TV licence fee hike: BBC should 'refocus on making wonderful TV and terrific local radio'

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As the TV licence fee is set to increase Gary Shipton explains why he thinks a radical reassessment is desperately needed.

Just when many hard-pressed families thought the cost of living crisis couldn't get any worse for them, the Culture Secretary has announced a whopping increase in the archaic TV licence fee of more than £10. Next year, anyone watching live TV - even if they choose never to see a single BBC programme - will be legally compelled to pay £169.50 for the privilege, compared to £159 at the moment.

It could have been worse. There had been reports that following a two-year freeze it could have soared by £15. But it is bad enough. The truth is that neither the funding model for the BBC nor the corporation itself are fit for purpose.

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In a multi-streaming global media age, people should be free to choose which services they receive - Netflix, Disney Plus, Sky - rather than also having to fund the deadweight costs of the dinosaur that is the BBC. According to Mail online and its analysis this week, repeats on the BBC over the festive period are set to increase, with nearly a third of shows on BBC1 having been seen before, while BBC2 will broadcast nearly 70 per cent of old programmes. This high level of repeats should come as no surprise. The corporation, with its increasingly narrow editorial view of the world, has spent the past year slashing the one jewel in its crown - its local radio services. Shame on it. At the same time, it has embarked on a highly anti-competitive and aggressive spending spree attacking independent local journalism in England by beefing up local news websites which traditional newspaper publishers are delivering.

In a press release only today, the BBC once again smugly snubbed hard-pressed local commercial publishers with the words 'the enhanced news coverage is part of a wider modernisation of the BBC’s local news services; putting local communities and the stories that matter to them at the heart of the BBC.' This is something many of us have been doing with tireless diligence for decades.

The BBC licence fee is set to increase in line with inflation.The BBC licence fee is set to increase in line with inflation.
The BBC licence fee is set to increase in line with inflation. | William -

While publishers have to fund their own way through advertising and subscriptions, the BBC faces no such constraints. It can publish the digital equivalent of hundreds of local newspapers without a cover price charge, without advertising, and with limitless content - all funded by the money you might have spent heating your home or putting food on the table.

If the end result in a few years' time is that the BBC is the only news provider in your community, then democracy in this country will be truly dead. It will cherry-pick a few stories to focus on each day and there will only be one view of the world - and that will be the gold-plated tax-payer funded one from BBC la-la land.

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In making the announcement of the licence fee increase, the Culture Secretary also said that the government would review the BBC's current funding arrangement. Thank goodness. Let us hope that a general election does not de-rail such a change. A radical reassessment is desperately needed.

The BBC was once great and proud. It was a global brand. It needs to refocus on making wonderful TV and terrific local radio which an appreciative audience will be pleased to pay for through a voluntary subscription. The current tax masquerading as the licence fee belongs to another age and must be finally ended.

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