There are two main issues about the future of the BBC that are under discussion…what is the purpose of the BBC and how should it be funded?
The BBC believes the two are inseparable…only the licence fee funding structure can maintain the unique service that the BBC tells us the BBC provides….and that no other funding structure could.
Personally I don’t see that…it provides nothing that a commercial broadcaster can’t in the way of entertainmment, news and ‘social capital’ and the licence fee is by no means the most successful or viable option.
The one thing the BBC does have, despite its loud disclaimers, is a close relationship with the government. The BBC world service broadcasts to the world a particular view of how life should be lived, a cultural, social and political ideology beamed into the homes and minds of millions if not billions of citizens around the world….‘an overt and directed instrument of British foreign policy, a voice within a strategy of public diplomacy.’
The satellite dish and the internet are now among the greatest enemies of tyranny (then UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Straw 2002)
The BBC on home turf is not so very different…it sees itself as the principle diviner of moral values, the educator and guide for those who have lost their way through ignorance or prejudice, a social, political and spiritual authority providing the nation with the correct message.
Mark Thompson admitted that the BBC was no longer just a broadcaster, the corporation was to be a social force in the land, he said. The corporation was an “important builder of social capital, seeking to increase social cohesion and tolerance”, which in future would try to “foster audience understanding of differences of ethnicity, faith, gender, sexuality, age and ability or disability.
This outlook has been inherited by his replacement Tony Hall who during the Parliamentary inquiry into the future of the BBC has said that :
‘The BBC is a vitally important organisation…the greatest cultural force in Britain in my view…It is the passion that we all want to bring to what we do. Serving all audiences. That universality is absolutely key to the BBC, to what we do.’
A ‘vitally important organisation’? Or one doing a job that any other broadcaster could do?
‘The greatest cultural force in Britain’? It certainly has a uniquely powerful position, completely dominating the airwaves and the internet…but if it is so powerful it should also be under intense scrutiny…it should not be able to hide explosive and highly damaging reports such as the Balen Report and all contacts between journalists and politicians, pressure groups such as Green Peace, scientists etc should be open to inspection, if not to the public then to an independent reviewer.…it should be utterly blameless in its approach to reporting and held strictly to account for its activities…it should be entirely open about such activities and the decision making process that produced them.
‘Serving all audiences’? Hardly….it serves only one audience….those who adhere to its own particular liberal, progressive world view. If you have doubts about immigration, climate change, Islam or Europe you are shut out of the debate…the debate that is carried on is within very narrowly defined limits. So no, ‘universality’ is paid lip service to, but in practise the BBC does not represent the vast majority of cultural and political views of a major proportion of this nation’s population.
During that recent Parliamentary questioning of Lord Hall and others they delved into these matters…and as said they claimed that the licence fee was the only way to fund the BBC…here the answers are variously from Hall or James Purnell about BBC funding:
Q600 Mr Bradshaw: Could you clear up what the BBC’s current thinking is on both the licence fee and subscription, limited or otherwise?
Lord Hall of Birkenhead: Yes. On the licence fee, we believe it is a system that “ain’t broke”……the licence fee does a number of things. For 40 pence a day everybody in this country can enjoy first-class programmes and services.
Secondly, for that 40 pence a day we are not in competition for revenues with either Sky or ITV, or indeed with Channel 4, and what you get back from that is a broadcasting ecology that I think is the envy of the world.
You know this. You just have to go beyond these shores. Leave this country for 10 minutes and you realise that what we have here is very precious.
The system is working.
James Purnell carries on…..
The fact that we are confident the licence fee is the best way of funding the BBC makes us very open to having discussions because we are pretty confident that the arguments show that it works in practice and in theory.
We very much welcome a debate because if you have a strong idea that you believe in, testing it is a very good thing.
We think it might be pretty hard to raise the money to fund the costs of the services. Nowhere else in the world are the kinds of services that you are talking about funded commercially through subscription, certainly not without advertising. We think it may well not work even from the point of view of whether you could raise the money to cover the services, but even if you could we are not sure it is a terribly attractive idea in practice. We tried to model it. We said let us say that the services you put in the top-up would be BBC Three, BBC Four, online and iPlayer. That would save a household only £1.40 a month. They would be losing all of those services for £1.40 a month. If they then wanted to pay to get them all back, they would be paying twice the licence fee that they are at the moment.
Note that line:
‘We think it might be pretty hard to raise the money to fund the costs of the services [other than by the licence fee]‘
And note he says advertising is a major factor.
Sky doesn’t seem to have a problem raising money…they have around 10 million TV customers and raise nearly £6 billion…the BBC has over 25 million licence payers raising nearly £4 billion.
Here are Sky’s figures for 2013..note that advertising plays a relatively small role in its revenue stream:
Our business model
Sky is Britain and Ireland’s leading entertainment and communications provider. As at 30 June 2013, we had 11.2 million customers taking a total of 31.6 million products.
Retail subscription revenue grew by 6% to £5,951 million (2012: £5,593 million), reflecting continued product and customer growth and the benefit of the price rise which came into effect in September 2012. Sky Business returned to growth in the second half to achieve revenue growth of 1% for the full year.
We delivered a strong performance in wholesale subscription revenue which increased by 13% to £396 million (2012: £351 million). Although the volume of wholesale subscribers was flat year on year, we continue to benefit from greater take-up of Sky premium channels on other platforms.
Advertising revenue was flat year on year at £440 million (2012: £440 million), despite the impact of the Olympics in our first quarter. Sky Media gained market share across the year to reach 22.2%, with the majority of this growth underpinned by increased ratings for our media partner channels, with whom we share revenue upside. AdSmart, our tailored advertising product, is on track to launch early in 2013/14 with good interest from potential advertisers.
Installation, hardware and service revenue of £87 million was lower year on year (2012: £98 million) driven by improved product reliability, an increased number of customer self-installations, and higher right-first-time engineer visits.
Other revenue increased by 17% to £361 million (2012: £309 million) due to continued strong performance from Sky Bet which saw an increase in unique users in the year, and growth in international programme sales due to more original commissions.
The BBC states that the complex nature of its output, the need for independence from government, and simplicity of collection mean that only the licence fee structure can work.
Clearly that isn’t true…Sky offers a tremendous range of products, it takes in a huge amount of revenue not dependent on advertising, a subscription payment method would obviously be technically possible and the technology is proven…the BBC are already looking at blocking the iPlayer for those who haven’t paid the licence fee which indicates they can similarly control access to other television broadcasts. A subscription payment system would also loosen the government’s grip on the BBC’s finances.
Of course when you have looked at the funding method you might then look at what is the purpose of the BBC and does it uniquely provide that service?
The BBC sees itself as providing ‘social capital’, a ‘public good’, and most importantly a ‘shared experience’ that unites the nation as they talk about the same TV programmes around the water cooler at work. It clams only the BBC can provide such an experience.
But the BBC doesn’t provide that any longer, or no more than any other broadcaster or media provider.
The BBC doesn’t represent the views of the majority, instead it lectures and preaches to them, filling the airwaves with programmes designed to make you ‘think again’ about immigration, or programmes with messages about climate change shoehorned into them, or news broadcasts so one sided that they would make any Soviet era propagandist look on in envious admiration.
There is nothing really unique about the BBC any longer, there is nothing it can do better, cheaper or in a more principled manner than any commercial rival and its claim to the moral highground has long since been surrendered to political correctness and the desire to undermine everything ‘British’…..in fact rather than working to provide a shared experience it does the opposite trying to cater to all ‘communities’ as they now see Britain as being made up of…and that means British history must be deconstructed and rewritten to make the ‘new’ Britons feel good about themselves and their heritage even if it means trashing Britain and making those immigrants more likely to hate Britain than to love it and its culture…and hence unwilling to integrate….so no ‘one nation’ there due to the likes of the BBC who presumably are merely echoing what Muslim ‘conservatives’ like the once head of the MCB, Iqbal Sacranie, said….‘no other language or culture should be treated as the ‘norm’ and that the British should only be treated as one community in a community of communities.’
Ryan Bourne, head of public policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs, explains why the BBC cannot continue in its present form as Hall & Co would like:
If we did create the BBC now, it’s likely we’d limit its activities to pure public service broadcasting – things which would not be produced or would be under-produced in the broader market. This would require one public TV channel and one radio station at most.
The BBC knows this, so instead tries to justify its privileged position by claiming that it serves a wider “instrumental purpose” by “building a stronger sense of community through shared experiences”. But this is based on a false premise: that a genuine free market in broadcasting could not deliver shared experiences.