Calls to restructure TV licence fee funding

The BBC’s licence fee funding should be reformed and the board of governors restructured and separated from the corporation, according to proposals by Labour think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research.

In its report, From Public Service Broadcasting to Public Service Communications, launched on Tuesday at the IPPR’s Oxford Media Convention, it also advocated that BBC regulation be independent from media watchdog Ofcom.

The report argues the board of governors must be “radically reformed” to provide effective BBC regulation, and recommends an extension on licence fee concessions – currently only available to viewers over 75 years of age.

“The IPPR ultimately recommends a hypothecated tax on individuals’ income, collected by the Inland Revenue, with reduced fees for all benefit claimants,” the report says.

IPPR research fellow and report co-editor Jamie Cowling said there was a “clear need” to make the BBC governors more independent from the BBC.

“However, the BBC should not be brought under Ofcom. There should be more than one content regulator as a single content regulator could easily be subject to external pressure resulting in a chilling effect on the diversity of opinion in broadcast news and information.”

“With 98 per cent of households having televisions and the extent to which television is becoming a tool of social inclusion rather than just a luxury item, the licence fee should come from income tax paid by individuals and not a ‘poll tax’ paid per household. If those without televisions had to apply to opt out, licence fee non-payment would be dramatically cut.”

It also recommends that Ofcom publishes “appreciation indices” for programmes by broadcasters in receipt of public funds, “so that viewers’ approval or disapproval is not hidden behind simple ratings”.

By Wale Azeez

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