A YouGov poll for The Times suggests that half of Britons support a commercial model for the BBC and would like the broadcaster to make its money through advertisements or subscriptions.
According to the poll, just one in four favour the current compulsory licence fee system as the way to fund the BBC.
During the December General Election campaign, Prime Minister Boris Johnson questioned how long the current funding model could be justified. The licence costs £154.50 a year, rising in line with inflation.
Asked by YouGov how they would most like the BBC to be funded, 27 per cent of respondents said through the television licence fee. In comparison, 37 per cent said the corporation should generate revenue by running advertising breaks, as ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 do, effectively becoming free to viewers. A further 13 per cent supported a subscription model.
General taxation was favoured by 7 per cent, while 2 per cent chose “something else” and 14 per cent said they did not know. Conservative voters were the least supportive of the licence fee. The poll found that 21 per cent of those who said they voted Tory at the last election chose the licence fee model, compared to 38 per cent of Labour voters and 43 per cent of Lib Dems. Remainers were more likely than Leavers to support the licence fee — 40 per cent compared to 18 per cent. The system cannot be scrapped until 2027, when the BBC’s current Royal Charter expires. However, proposals to decriminalise non-payment could be tabled before 2022, when a “midterm review” will determine the fee for the next five years.
Responding to the poll, the BBC highlighted separate research which suggested that support for the licence fee had grown significantly since 2004, and was higher than for other funding models, with a spokesman describing the prospect of advertising as “a bad idea” which would not only mean less incentive to broadcast specialist or risk-taking programmes, but would also damage commercial broadcasters by reducing their advertising income. “During the last Charter Review, both ITV and Channel 4 said that they didn’t think the BBC should take advertising,” he added.