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< Back to question Should the BBC license be mandatory? Show more Show less

Introduced in 1923, more than 25 million UK TV owners pay the annual license fee that fund the BBC’s television and radio operations. Non-payment is considered a criminal offence and can result in a hefty fine. As other European nations move away from mandatory license fees, should the UK government follow suit?

No, the license should not be mandatory Show more Show less

The BBC license fee surmounts to a regressive tax that disproportionately affects poor households, for a service that not everyone makes use of.
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The BBC doesn’t account for the majority of TV

With more channels and new ways of watching tv flooding the market, the BBC is no longer the main provider of television content. Yet the rising license fee forces all Britons to pay more into a system that they use the least.
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Proponents


Context

The fee made sense in the 1920s when the BBC dominated the airwaves. Now, with the BBC holding a far smaller share of the market, it does not.

The Argument

The mandatory TV license system which pays for the BBC should be scrapped because the BBC is no longer the main channel on TV. With more channels than ever before broadcasting shows from all over the world, the BBC's viewership has declined, dropping from 25 million in 2014 to 18 million in 2019.[1] And according to a poll from 2019, the most popular channel was channel 4, next BBC, then ITV.[1] This goes to show that the privileged position the license fee affords it is unwarranted. Many people never watch the BBC and are still forced to pay the license fee for a service they never make use of. This can be seen as highly undemocratic.[2] What's more, the money collected from the TV license fee does not all go toward producing high-quality content. A bulk of the revenue is used to pay top-ranking tv personalities' high salaries. According to the Sun magazine, only £2.4 billion of the total £5.1 billion goes toward programming.[3] A staggering £100 million of this money was spent on tracking doing license fee dodgers in 2017[4]. Surely there could be better uses for this money. So not only does the BBC not account for a majority of tv viewership anymore, but the money is being used for somewhat questionable purposes beyond ensuring high-quality content. As such, there is significant opposition to the mandatory licensing fee, with some proposing it either be repealed or applied on a voluntary basis.[5]

Counter arguments

The license fee has been criticised because it forces people to pay money to the BBC despite it not accounting for the majority of TV. But those in favour of the fee fear for the future of the BBC if the fee is scrapped. In particular, proponents of the fee worry that the quality of the content will suffer.[6] The license fee allows the BBC to fund its programming without being limited advertisers. With public funding, the BBC has full control over its content and has the power to choose how to spend their money. For example, David Attenborough's Planet Earth has cost more than £16 million and Downton Abbey cost more than £1 million per episode. [6] Few funded channels can afford to spend so much even if the content is of extremely high quality. It's true, the BBC is not watched by everyone, but it is designed to benefit everyone. Because they rely on public funding, its content remains independent from private corporate influence.[6] The license fee ensure that remains in the hands of the public, ensuring that the power remains with the people and free of outside influence. This ensures top quality independent content for all.

Premises

[P1] A TV license should fund the content people watch on their televisions. [P2] The BBC makes up a very small part of what people watch. [P3] Therefore, it is not fair that the BBC gets all of the TV license revenues.

Rejecting the premises


References

  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/290866/bbc-news-viewers-reached-quarterly-uk/
  2. https://iea.org.uk/blog/the-case-against-the-bbc-licence-fee
  3. https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9265232/theresa-may-bbc-free-tv-licence-scrapped-pensioners/
  4. https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/762363/REVEALED-BBC-spend-100MILLION-of-taxpayers-money-chasing-licence-fee-dodgers
  5. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-51270012
  6. https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/why-im-in-favour-of-the-tv-licence/

This page was last edited on Monday, 6 Jul 2020 at 22:56 UTC

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