The TV License fee, which funds Britain’s state-run BBC, should be abolished, according to a report by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. The group of MPs said the fee was “becoming harder and harder to justify” in a changing media environment.
Under the current system households with a TV, or who watch live television broadcasts online, are subject to an annual levy of £145.50. However the rules become blurred because on-demand services like the BBC’s iPlayer are not included.
The committee suggested a compulsory media levy from every household to fund the BBC. But this may not satisfy Conservative MPs, many of whom want to either sell the BBC or move to a subscription service.
Committee chairman John Whittingdale told BBCOnline: “In the short term, there appears to be no realistic alternative to the licence fee, but that model is becoming harder and harder to justify and sustain.” Whilst the report itself said: “we do not see a long-term future for the licence fee in its current form”.
Last year Andrew Bridgen MP introduced a bill to decriminalise non-payment. He claimed the old system “criminalised the poor” and the report agreed with this, although the BBC itself claims such a move would cost it £200m.
The BBC’s director of strategy James Purnell, described the report as “very serious and important”.
He said: “They are saying the licence fee should continue for the next years and think the BBC should continue for the next 10 years when its comes up for charter renewal after the election.
“We actually agree with them that the licence fee should be modernised. We have said this should extend to catch-up services, when people are watching catch-up for example on their tablets.
“They have come up with a more radical solution with a broadcast levy where every household would pay.”
The levy system was recently introduced in Germany.