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Should the BBC license be mandatory? Show more Show less
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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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Linear TV is dead

The mandatory license is modelled on a user model that is outdated.

Context

The license fee is modelled on the broadcasting industry of a bygone era, when users tuned in to live television through the boxes in their living rooms.

The Argument

The license fee only applies to TV users that watch live broadcast television. That isn’t how we consume television content anymore. With digital streaming services, users stream shows when they want to watch them, not when they air. In this sense, a license fee for users that watch live television is irrelevant and dated. The current TV license system of paying a flat rate every year is going out of date with the death of linear TV. The annual fee, which rose in 2020 from £154.50 to £157.50 per year, is deemed too high for those who don’t often use the service.[1] In recent years, linear TV (real-time scheduled programming) has been overtaken by the huge growth of the on-demand streaming which affords the viewer greater control over what, when, where, and how they watch TV. The way we watch TV has undergone a fundamental shift that linear TV cannot compete with. Linear TV “is scrambling for the attention of viewers and advertisers” as a study reveals that young people watch more Netflix than all BBC services combined.[2] Netflix’s popularity and market dominance has soared in recent years and is joined by a plethora of other competing on-demand streaming services, including Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+.[2] While certainly still popular, linear TV is struggling to keep up. The license fee system represents an outdated way of funding TV, and as such, opponents to this model are calling for its end.[3]

Counter arguments

Linear TV viewership may be on the decline, but the TV license system does more than just pay for linear TV, it contributes to the BBC as a whole. The revenue from the TV license fees helps pay for the world-renowned top quality service provided by the BBC. The fee maintains the integrity and standards of the organisation, allowing them to churn out award-winning shows and documentaries and comprehensive news and radio shows.[4] Conservative MP Huw Merriman stated that "The BBC should not be a target" explaining that “It not only brings us together at home but helps maintain our influence on the world stage."[5]The BBC produces creative important content that gets broadcasted across the globe. The BBC is a British cultural institution that should, therefore, be protected.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] The license fee charges users that watch broadcast television. [P2] This is no longer the way users consumer TV content. [P3] Therefore, the license fee is based on an outdated user model.

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.gov.uk/tv-licence#:~:text=A%20TV%20Licence%20costs%20%C2%A3,for%20both%20homes%20and%20businesses.
  2. https://bsgroup.eu/future-of-linear-broadcasters/
  3. https://www.theweek.co.uk/100920/tv-licence-what-are-the-pros-and-cons
  4. https://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2016/03/the-best-arguments-for-and-against-the-tv-license-fee/
  5. https://www.aol.co.uk/news/2020/02/17/boris-johnson-not-looking-to-scrap-tv-licence-fee-a-at-this-sta/?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAMsOAQE7nOgH7pK3OtrROcULNbq00ybjWB7SDLK1G5BUOmGLbkg0TXcoDZoL23ZBg7sfVuM6Fa_Sbvz1jPBEHo8i89_Y09UDZ3cjJqz-K7vsfTuXhpw5_0tfm8iBgFJkOmolq7QV38d-OxwfG1hgBtTp0Y_m3OR0glqurlw7iblZ

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This page was last edited on Monday, 6 Jul 2020 at 22:59 UTC

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