Adam Smith Institute: scrap BBC licence fee but keep news free

Free market think-tank the Adam Smith institute said called for the BBC licence fee to be scrapped and replaced with a voluntary subscription to fund a slimmed-down BBC.

Global Player or Subsidy Junky was written by David Graham, a former BBC producer who worked on Nationwide, The Money Programme and Panorama.

In his report he says:

The BBC is the UK’s strongest media asset. It is a global brand. Here are the outlines of a rather different approach from the one described above, the main components of which, expressed in their most basic terms, are as follows:

• The BBC would, over a limited period of time, allow licence fee payers to either lapse or switch to voluntary subscription.
• ‘Public Service’would be redefined to essentials and the monitoring of these would come from a specialist unit within the relevant Government department.
• Core public service content would be ‘free’and include news, but not entertainment genres or most documentary and factual output. The over 75 free-access options would continue.
• Content intended to promote the UK (like the present World Service) should be directly funded by Government as it is now.

Graham notes that one of the big drawbacks of the current set up is the amount of energy the BBC expends managing public attitudes and the attitude of the Government.

He says: “…the BBC also feels the need to devote tremendous effort to securing Government backing and invests heavily in opinion management, directed both at the public and its regulators and sponsoring departments”.

The Graham plan seems like a far-fetched one. But that said, it’s unlikely that in this Age of Austerity the Governement is going to let the BBC keep its guaranteed £3.5bn a year income (£4.66bn including the World Service and commercial money) when everyone else in the public and private sector are having costs slashed to the bone.

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