Scrap ‘outdated’ BBC licence fee as cost of living rises, say think tanks

Free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs has urged the government to phase out the BBC licence fee.

These comments come after reports that culture secretary Nadine Dorries will announce that the costs of the annual TV licence required to watch live television and access iPlayer services in the UK, will be frozen at £159 until 2024 before rising slightly for the following three years.

It also suggested that the fee will is scheduled to be scrapped entirely from 2027.

Commenting on the future of the BBC licence fee, Mark Littlewood, Director General at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“The government should now legislate to bring the compulsory TV licence fee to an end by 2027, otherwise we will face five years of rearguard actions by the corporation to attempt to cling on to this outdated funding model. What is needed is an agreement and understanding that the licence fee will end to enable a proper debate about the best new approach to adopt, which must be one based on consent rather than coercion.

“An attractive option is to move the BBC to a membership model, similar to that of the National Trust. This would be entirely voluntary and members would democratically elect a board to pursue the BBC’s overall objectives.

“A lingering question is whether there should be any state funding of so-called public service broadcasting – for output which may have some supposed wider value but isn’t commercially viable. But even if there is a case for such funding, there is no reason to ringfence it for the BBC. All broadcasters and content producers should be able to submit bids to access grants from any such pot.

“Finally, the BBC continues to fall further and further behind the broadcasting giants of Netflix and Amazon. This gap will widen until a new funding approach is found that will allow the BBC to flourish and grow its revenue stream rather than cling on to the comfort blanket of effective compulsion for its funding. The corporation should now help kickstart a debate about what this new funding model should look like.”

Danielle Boxall, media campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, also supported the move, saying that: “Freezing the licence fee would be a welcome first step.

“Taxpayers facing a cost of living crisis shouldn’t be forced to pay the hated TV tax, on pain of imprisonment. Going forward, abolishing the BBC licence fee is the only real answer.

“Instead of kicking the can down the road, ministers must legislate to unshackle Auntie from the taxpayer and let the Beeb stand on its own two feet.”