Tim Worstall, senior fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, says Yes.
The government has rather whiffed the opportunity to radically overhaul the BBC and the licence fee. The first should be privatised and the other abolished, of course. Back when broadcasting was solely free to air, and thus limited by available spectrum, there was at least the possibility of an argument in favour of a government defined and limited broadcaster. Today, there is not. Technology has changed, and therefore the entire industry is something that can just be left to the market. So the licence fee must go. We all know that the luvvies are rather of the left but it does amuse me that it’s the left insisting that nothing must change. Nothing quite as conservative as the British left these days. The one vaguely encouraging noise being made is about encouraging diversity. But sadly this does not mean the only diversity of any importance – the diversity of opinion that the BBC cares to put on air, or among its own staff. Sell the BBC and free those with no interest in it from paying for it.
Justin Lewis, professor of communication and dean of research for the College of Arts at Cardiff University, says No.
The BBC’s licence fee is a bit like democracy – an imperfect system that, for all its flaws, is still better than anything else that’s on offer. Is it regressive? Yes, but it is much cheaper than any comparable content provider, cheaper even than most newspapers. And yet the BBC provides far more content on a wide range of channels across radio, TV, and online. It also comes commercially free. At 40p a day it is, quite literally, as cheap as chips. Does it force individuals to pay for it who don’t use it? Perhaps, but very few – 95 per cent of people in the UK consume BBC content. It provides the most popular TV station, the most popular radio station, and the most popular online news service. We all pay taxes for things that we don’t use. The BBC is, by comparison, fairly universal. Indeed, in an era of increasing cultural fragmentation, its universality is its strength. In short: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.