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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?

Yes, the BBC license should be mandatory Show more Show less

The BBC provides a non-excludable service of public good and could only function in its current form through a mandatory license fee.
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A mandatory license fee supports minority tastes

Without a mandatory license fee, the BBC would be unable to produce programs that appeal to niche interests and ethnic and religious minorities.
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Context

The private media business model does not allow for programs with minority appeal. The publicly-funded model through a mandatory license fee is the only way to accommodate minority taste.

The Argument

Without a publicly-funded model through a license fee, commercially viable television networks would need to rely on advertising revenue. To maximise advertising revenue, networks run programs that can attract high volumes of viewers. These are the programs that have mass public appeal. Maintaining a mandatory license fee affords the BBC the freedom to run programs with minority appeal. Not only does this allow for more artistic freedom, but it also means the BBC can run highly tailored shows for cultural and ethnic minorities, including its Asian network.

Counter arguments

The mandatory license fee isn’t the only model that offers the creative freedom to pursue content with minority appeal. A donation system where the BBC could run through voluntary donations or a subscription model that would also allow for the creation of content with minority appeal. As would a system where the government funds the BBC through ordinary tax revenue rather than implementing an additional mandatory license fee. The rise of digital content has also removed many of the barriers to producing content with minority appeal. Even commercial media outlets are able to run small side broadcasts online very cheaply where they can publish content with less public appeal. [1]

Framing

Premises

[P1] Programs that appeal to niche interest groups and minority cultures make for a richer cultural landscape. [P2] A mandatory license fee is the only model that allows broadcasters to broadcast programs with minority appeal. [P3] Therefore, the BBC should continue to be funded by a mandatory license fee.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] A mandatory license fee is not the only model that allows for programming with minority appeals.

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://iea.org.uk/blog/the-case-against-the-bbc-licence-fee

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This page was last edited on Friday, 17 Apr 2020 at 11:59 UTC