BBC director general: plenty of life left in the licence fee

BBC director general Tony Hall

BBC director general Tony Hall

The BBC’s director general Tony Hall has spoken out against the corporation switching to a subscription-based model, arguing that the licence fee offers “something for everyone.”

In an opinion piece written for the Daily Mirror, Hall argues that, even in a digital age, the existing licence fee model has “plenty of life left” and that moving to a subscription model like Sky would create numerous problems.

“Firstly, it would cost a fortune to set up – about £500 million [€640 million] to install new set-top boxes to every TV to control who is watching,” said Hall.

“Secondly, subscription would mean we would lose one of the things that people most value about the BBC – the way it creates great programmes that we can all enjoy. Even at their best, subscription channels can’t do this.”

The director general said that for 40 pence per day viewers are able to access a whole range of BBC services, and that moving to a commercial model, with advertising, would take money away from rivals like Channel 4 and ITV.

He added that despite advances in technology, close to 90% of all TV viewing is still live and that fewer than 2% of UK households only watch on-demand programmes.

“I think the Licence Fee has plenty of life left. But it has always moved with the times, whether it be scrapping the old radio licence or introducing a new colour licence. So it could be modernised again – so it applies to watching BBC programmes both live and on iPlayer. This is for the Government to decide, but worth considering,” said Hall.

“The BBC’s job is to deliver to you. Not to politicians or the powerful. Some 96% of the population watch, listen or use the BBC every week. They choose the BBC 140 million times a day. Those 140 million decisions wouldn’t happen without our commitment to serve everyone.”