Tuesday 17 December 2019 4:38 am

DEBATE: Is it time for a review of the licence fee and how the BBC is structured?

Jamie Williams is planning partner at the advertising agency isobel
and Kevin Craig

Is it time for a review of the licence fee and how the BBC is structured?

Jamie Williams, managing partner at the advertising agency isobel, says YES.

In a perfect world, the BBC licence fee structure could remain as it is, and the BBC would produce brilliantly entertaining content and unbiased news coverage at affordable costs.

But, unfortunately, the world isn’t perfect. All great things need to adapt and evolve to stay fresh and relevant, and the BBC is no different.

The Beeb is a well-loved institution and for good reason, but consumers of BBC content are getting older, and across the UK the love is being lost. Less than half of 16–34 years olds now consume BBC content on a weekly basis, licences are being cancelled in record numbers, and according to YouGov two thirds of the UK want the licence scrapped — which is likely why it is now on the Prime Minister’s to-do-list.

If these trends continue, the BBC surely can’t survive on its current licence fee model and compete with other broadcasters.

As with other national broadcasters around the world, at some point working with advertisers or moving to a subscription service may be the answer.

Kevin Craig, founder and chief executive of communications agency PLMR, says NO.

First, the BBC is, for the most part, impartial. You can tell this from the way it got hammered by both the main parties for its election coverage.

Second, the BBC does things no other broadcaster does. You might not listen to it, but the World Service is valued by millions around the world for providing impartial news which cannot be censored. It is an antidote to fake news, and is investing in local journalism when local papers are dying on their feet.

Don’t forget the unique work that BBC Voice is doing leading technological developments, with a dedicated team of journalists supplying news to the major smart speaker platforms — Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant.

Last weekend, we saw Strictly Come Dancing bring the nation together and register over 10m viewers — a massive feat in the age of streaming. The BBC is not perfect, but it’s part of what Britain is and who we are. Our new government has many priorities. Damaging the BBC through an unnecessary licence reform ought not to be one of them.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.