Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has announced a ten-strong panel to help shape the future of public service broadcasting, the bad news is that none of the appointed industry experts is a known opponent of the current compulsory licence fee funding model, despite the board’s mandate to “explore if current funding and governance models are fit for purpose”. Guido can’t recall any of the appointees ever voicing scepticism about the ridiculous licence fee model continuing in the twenty-first century:
Baroness Bertin – Senior Advisor at BT and former Press Secretary to David Cameron;
Miranda Curtis CMG – Non-Executive Director of Liberty Global;
Sir Robbie Gibb – British broadcast journalist, former Head of BBC Westminster and Director of Communications at No.10;
Lord Grade of Yarmouth CBE – Former Chief Executive of Channel 4, Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors, and Executive Chairman of ITV plc;
Andrew Griffith MP – Member of Parliament for Arundel and South Downs, former Chief Operating Officer & CFO of Sky Group plc and Chairman of the Royal Television Society 2017 Cambridge Convention;
John Hardie – Former CEO and Editor-in-Chief at ITN;
Nicola Mendelsohn CBE – Vice President for Europe, Middle East, and Africa at Facebook;
Dr Samir Shah CBE – Chief Executive of Juniper Productions, Chair of the Museum of the Home and former Deputy Chair, V&A;
Sophie Turner Laing OBE – Former CEO of Endemol Shine Group;
Jane Turton – Chief Executive of All3Media.
The case for Channel 4 being privatised remains strong as does the case for BBC Radio moving to an advertiser funded model. Guido fails to understand what the “public service” remit of BBC Radio is in this day and age – it seems to duplicate the output of independent radio – just at the expense of people who don’t listen to it. Local BBC radio has also destroyed the viability of independent media to compete profitably.
Jo Stevens MP, Labour’s Culture Shadow robotically opines “The government cannot continue to pass the buck. Tory cuts have already led to job losses and programme changes as well as axing the free TV licence for the over-75s.” Which is a re-writing of history, the BBC grabbed a deal with inflation-linked rises in licence fee taxes in exchange for not charging the over-75s. There was no funding cut and whether or not OAPs are charged the licence fee makes no difference to the BBC’s bloated costs. The BBC now want to renege on the deal they said was fair at the time.
John O’Connell, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance puts it clearly, saying the BBC must “keep costs down to protect households from yet another painful rise in the licence fee. But to guarantee the best value for money, ministers must prepare to bring the BBC’s funding model into the twenty first-century. In the long term, public service broadcasters can only compete and survive if we axe the TV tax and let the BBC stand on its own two feet.” The days of a monolithic broadcaster are past, the twenty-first century is a multi-platform, multi-channel world of choice, coercive funding has had its day.