Scrap BBC licence fee, give Worldwide greater role says UK think tank

UK public broadcaster the BBC should give up its licence fee and instead rely on voluntary subscriptions for funding, according to influential right-wing think tank the Adam Smith Institute. However the report does not echo earlier calls for the privatisation of commercial arm BBC Worldwide and claims to “envision an enhanced global presence for the BBC”.

The Adam Smith report – Global Player or Subsidy Junkie? Decision Time for the BBC – argues that “the BBC is, in reality, a subsidised entertainment firm with some non-commercial obligations”. It adds: “The BBC should no longer be allowed to exploit the excusive benefits of public subsidy. The hostility of its competitors is justified.”

It was written by David Graham, a former BBC producer and current CEO of audience measurement firm Attentional. He calls for the BBC to open itself up to subscription revenue, with a very limited selection of content delivered free. “Subscription, or pay TV revenue, has now outgrown all other revenue sources from broadcasting,” he notes. “The BBC’s current funding mode both isolates it from the industry’s fastest growing revenue stream and ties it too narrowly to domestic income sources.”

The report broadly rejects calls for the privatisation of BBC Worldwide and says the commercial arm of the public broadcaster “is in an ideal position to pioneer the direct delivery of content outside the UK, along with the appropriate payment models”. Graham goes on to call for a wider shake-up of how international TV rights are traded.