Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Is the BBC Worth The Money?

The BBC will no longer be free to pensioners, they will soon need to pay the £155 a year Licence Fee that every other household pays.

That the licence fee is a tax should be obvious. Everyone has to pay it, you don’t get anything you specifically want for it and it is a criminal offence not to pay it. As a flat rate tax it is also a bad tax. It hits the poorer harder than the rich, and collection costs run a touch over 2% of revenue collected.

What Exactly is Public Service Broadcasting?
The answer here seems to be whatever the Beeb wants it to mean, but a more reasonable definition might be this:

Public services tend to be those considered to be so essential to modern life that for moral reasons their universal provision should be guaranteed.

A public service may sometimes have the characteristics of a public good (being non-rivalrous and non-excludable), but most are services which may (according to prevailing social norms) be under-provided by the market.

Which raises some interesting questions about what the Beeb should be doing as its core “Public Service” activity.  Only those things that the BBC does that there is no direct good quality free commercial competition for.  Taking a “minimum requirement” approach, leaves maybe:

Televising Parliament;
Providing Impartial (sic) News;
High Quality Factual Programming;
Advert Free Educational Children’s Television.

Which is maybe 15% of its expenditure. Or about £750m worth. Almost the exact amount the government has historically paid from general taxation for those “Free” over 75 licences.

 

So cancel the Licence Fee Tax.  The Government can buy those truly Public Broadcasting Services from the BBC or anyone else it fancies, competitively tendered every few years of course.

Auntie will have to market the rest of her wares in the same way as ITV, C4, C5, Quest, Netflix, HBO, Sky and so on and on.  If they do a good enough job then advertisers and punters will voluntarily give them the rest of their bloated budget, maybe more.

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Leo Savantt
Leo Savantt
2 years ago

The problem with a sensible proposal such as this one is the likelihood of it being adopted is in direct inverse proportion to the sense that it makes.

Q46
Q46
2 years ago

You are being too generous. That radio/TV transmissions are a public goods is indisputable The commercial solutions to this: sponsorship and/or advertising which was the route taken in the US and later by ITV in the UK, subscription to encrypted service or nowadays Internet. The licence fee is for a radio/tv receiver, not to watch the BBC. In the early days this was moot as the only choice was the BBC until the mid-1950s for TV and up to the late 1960s for radio. Televising Parliament. I think this is via Parliament’s own cameras. The feed could be offered to… Read more »

Rhoda Klapp
Rhoda Klapp
2 years ago

Questions to which the answer is no?

Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan
2 years ago

You don’t have to pay the Beeb tax. Just don’t connect your TV to anything capable of broadcast TV and avoid iPlayer.

Climan
Climan
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Ryan

I did so 3 years ago, no regrets whatsoever.

Andrew Carey
Andrew Carey
2 years ago

Let the licence fee payers collectively decide if it’s worth it, who gets it for nothing, and what it should provide.
Oh that would mean a Board with the power to decide these things, and elected by the licence payer. Not one chosen by some panel of civil servants overseen by James Brokenshire or whatever his name is meandering between the subsidised bars in one of Europe’s most expensive big cities and the purveyors of vegan sausage rolls designed in one of Europe’s fattest.

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