From Colin Mann in London
Free-market policy research body The Adam Smith Institute is proposing that the TV Licence Fee should be abolished, and that the BBC should instead become a subscription service. The think tank makes its arguments in a report – Global Player or Subsidy Junkie? Decision time for the BBC – written by media expert and former BBC producer David Graham.
The report makes a number of points against the Licence Fee, arguing that it criminalises poor people, that it forces people to pay for genuinely ‘free’ services funded by advertising, that it obliges the BBC to replicate a crude commercial model based on mass-audience advertising, and that universal broadband and the Internet make a “licence” to broadcast obsolete.
The Institute contends that the report actually focuses on a more positive argument, suggesting that the BBC is a hugely important British institution that should be working harder for the country. “At the moment, the BBC invests heavily in opinion management and capturing UK regulators. Instead, it should look outwards towards the international media market, exporting prime time content to other countries (particularly in the EU) and competing for the first time with the major US studios,” it recommends.
Rather than just exploiting the exclusive benefits of public subsidy, the Institute argues that the BBC should be contributing substantially to the national economy, and that shifting to a voluntary subscription model is the best way to make this happen. It would also allow the public, for the first time, the chance to make its own choices, as well as making the BBC more responsive to consumer demands and interests, says the Institute.
According to David Graham, continuing with the current funding model means justified hostility from the rest of the industry, contraction and decline for the BBC.