Theme: Society & Culture | Content Type: Journal article

BBC Funding: Much Ado about the Cost of a Coffee a Week

Patrick Barwise

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Nathan Dumlao

| 1 min read

BBC funding (the licence fee model and the funding level) has been turned into a big issue out of all proportion to the low financial stakes—equivalent to the cost of one takeaway coffee a week for the whole household, excluding those with free TV licences. This article first proposes and explores three possible reasons for all the fuss: that licence payers take the BBC for granted, underestimating the value they get from it; that the attacks on BBC funding are part of a wider ‘war’ against it, driven by commercial or political vested interests; and that at least some of the criticisms of the licence fee reflect genuine, although much exaggerated, disadvantages. The article then evaluates four alternative funding models: advertising, subscriptions, general taxation and a universal household levy. It argues that the best long-term model would be a flat, universal household levy, with exemptions for those least able to pay, as in Germany, with the funding level set by an independent body organised by Ofcom; and that, because the licence fee is becoming harder to sustain, this new funding model should be introduced at the start of the next BBC Charter in January 2028.

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    Patrick Barwise

    Patrick Barwise is Emeritus Professor of Management and Marketing at London Business School and Chairman of the Archive of Market and Social Research.

    Articles by Patrick Barwise
Volume 95, Issue 1

Latest Journal Issue

Volume 95, Issue 1

Includes a collection on the Future of Public Service Broadcasting, edited by Suzanne Franks and Jean Seaton. This features articles such as 'The Governance of the BBC' by Diane Coyle; 'A Public Service Internet - Reclaiming the Public Service Mission' by Helen Jay; and 'BBC Funding: Much Ado about the Cost of a Coffee a Week' by Patrick Barwise. There are a wide range of other articles including 'Back to the Stone Age: Europe's Mainstream Right and Climate Change’ by Mitya Pearson and 'Labour, the Unions and Proportional Representation' by Cameron Rhys Herbert. Finally, there is a selection of book reviews such as Lyndsey Jenkins's review of Fighting For Life: The Twelve Battles that Made Our NHS and the Struggle for Its Future by Isabel Hardman, and Victoria Brittain's review of Three Worlds, Memoirs of an Arab-Jew by Avi Shlaim.

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