Since 1 April 2010 the annual licence fee has been £145.50 (less than 40p per day ) for colour and £49.00 for black and white (around five years ago the TV licence agency website reported that “28,000 homes across the UK are still enjoying their programmes in black and white”). The licence fee is reported to generate around£3.7 billion a year of which about 608 million (or 16.3%) was provided by the Government subsidies/concessions for those over the age of 75. The licence fee is reported to generate around 75% of the BBC’s income. This is about to change, the BBC is going to have to cover the cost of over 75 year old viewers itself by 2020. In return the fee will rise in line with inflation (measured by the consumer prices index). It is also expected that legislation next year will close the loophole allowing those who only watch catch-up television to avoid the licence fee.
To put the cost of the licence fee in context here it is in comparison to a few other things:
- 9 peak time trips to the cinema for 2 (based on average UK price found online)
- 322 pints of milk (based on price I paid in my local supermarket this week)
- 3 Premier League football matches for 1 (based on a rough calculation of average prices)
- 125 litres of diesel (based on the price I have just paid) (enough to drive about 1,500mile based on the 58mpg my car averages)
- 46 pints of beer (based on an average price found online)
- 6 meals for two at Nando’s (1/2 chicken with sides and a drink each)
More important than where the money comes from is where it goes. Below if a graph (borrowed from The Telegraph) showing how they spend their money.
Most of the graph is self explanatory. One unexplained thing is “other services & production” this, I imagine will include BBC Films; BBC Films is the film-making division of arm of the BBC, they co-produces and distributes British FIlms. Notable examples are: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, My Week with Marilyn, In the Loop, An Education, Iris, Notes on a Scandal and Billy Elliot. Nut more notable are the fantastic smaller films that may not have been made if not for BBC Films: Fish Tank, X+Y, Shadow Dancer, Perfect Sense, We Need to Talk about Kevin, Made in Dagenham. Given the state of the British film industry, we can’t afford to lose BBC films.
I could live without most of the television production. There are many programs I watch but there are only a few unmissable ones: Doctor Who, Top Gear and Match of the Day. But there are two elements of the BBC that they do better than anyone else. Radio and Online. For as long as I can remember I have looked towards America, my favourite TV shows growing up were American, most films I watch are American, I love the two truly great American art forms; Rock and Roll and Jazz, but there is one thing no-one in the world, including America can do as well as the BBC Radio. I grew up listening to Radio 1 then graduated to Radio 2 in my late 20’s. Radio 4 provides great comedy and drama. Then came the home of news, sport (and Wittertainment) 5 Live. BBC 6 Music provides a good balance between Radio 1 and 2. Then there is BBC local radio, my local station BBC WM is great for local sport. The BBC website is the only place I look online for news, weather and sport. Also online, the BBC I-Player is the best TV and radio streaming service, providing a mixture of older archive programs , and recent catch-up, and best of all, it’s free.
The main point of the big debate is what should happen to the licence fee and what programs should the BBC make? As for the programming, you will never please everyone, but on the whole, I think they are getting it right. The lighter programming is the most contentious, but has been part of the BBC for as long as anyone can remember. Free to air sport is not for everyone, but really is an essential part of the service they provide. I can not imaging a time time when the FA cup final, Wimbledon, and F1 (ITV coverage wasn’t great when they had it) isn’t on BBC. The fee is more complicated; the licence is only required to watch TV, all the other services including Radio and online are free for all. At the moment around 96% of UK homes currently pay the licence fee or receive the over 75’s subsidy. Is the any millage in funding the BBC directly from the exchequer? Would this impact on the BBC’s independence? One thing is certain, The BBC should never become commercial. Whatever the outcome, my plea is simple, don’t ruin The BBC!