65% of TV viewers want BBC fee ditched

Just one in five people believe the BBC should still be funded by the licence fee, polling shows.

But despite this, industry experts believe it is here to stay.

Omnisis asked more than 1,300 people: “Should the BBC continue to be funded by the licence fee?”

While 21 percent agreed, 65 percent said it should not.

David Elstein, a TV executive once in line for the director-general job, said he would welcome a split method of funding, with the public service paid for through tax and the remainder through subscription.

But he believed this was unlikely because the Government had too many other issues to deal with

Mr Elstein, a former chief executive at Channel 5, said immediate reform of the licence fee is now “less likely”.

He said: “This Government doesn’t have the muscle or the appetite to impose change on the BBC.”

He added; ”The only way change could be imposed is by government edict, saying ‘the licence fee will be abolished in 2028; over to Mr BBC’, but they just don’t have the appetite to do that politically.”

“They know if they announced it, the Labour Party would say well, ‘We’re going to reverse that when we get into power’.”

The Government has launched a review of the funding at the same time as figures in the annual report show, according to Mr Elstein, “500,000 fewer people paying a licence fee”.

But the 78-year-old said this lost revenue would not be an existential problem but could see the corporation broadcasting more with less.

He said: “The BBC’s got unlimited capacity for working within its known revenues. 

“It can make fewer programmes, they can make less expensive programmes. They can put out more repeats.”

He added: “The worst aspect of the licence fee is it’s really a tax on poor people.”

He has suggested changing to funding before – when he applied for the director general’s role in 2000.

He said: “I was asked about the licence fee, and I said, ‘I don’t see a long-term future and I’d rather move to a more independent form of financing, like subscription where you’re not dependent on ministers and negotiations with government to get your income’.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “The licence fee is the agreed method of funding until 2027 and ensures the BBC is an independent, universal broadcaster, which invests in UK creativity and talent. Beyond that, it is right there is a debate on whether the licence fee needs to evolve.”

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