According to BBC director general Tony Hall, the BBC licence fee has “got 10 years of life left in it,” and he has dismissed the suggestion of replacing the charge with a subscription model to pay for the Corporation’s output.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Hall agreed the licence fee needed to “adapt, modernise and change” to reflect changing consumption patterns.
In February 2015, an influential group of UK MPs said it sees no long-term future in the BBC licence fee and set out advantages of a broadcasting levy. The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee called for major changes to the BBC’s governance and for reforms to its funding.
Committee Chairman John Whittingdale said at the time that in the short term, there appeared to be no realistic alternative to the licence fee, but that model was becoming harder and harder to justify and sustain. Whittingdale was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the new Conservative administration elected in May 2015. One of his first duties will be to oversee negotiations for the corporation’s charter renewal in 2016. The BBC’s royal charter determines the level of the licence fee and the other terms under which it operates.
“Reform is up for the government to decide and have a debate,” Hall said, advising that the BBC had suggested ways of reforming the licence fee to reflect whatever way BBC services are consumed and used they could be paid for. “Somewhere in there lies a solution.”
According to Hall, by everybody paying something, “we all get great services for a lot less than if you went down a subscription model route.”
Hall said that Whittingdale’s Committee report said some positive things about the BBC. “He knows the sector and loves what the media do – and the arts – and it’s a positive way to start.”