Mandatory TV Tax ‘Unsustainable’ as Young People Reject BBC

Climate activists protest at the BBC offices during the fifth day of demonstrations by the climate change action group Extinction Rebellion, in London, on October 11, 2019. - London police have reported making more than 1,000 arrests over four days of protests by the group Extinction Rebellion, which have been …

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has warned that the mandatory TV tax is at risk of being undermined because young people are “tuning out” of the BBC.

For the first time, fewer than half (49 per cent) of Britons aged 16 to 24 say that they watch the BBC’s television programmes even a minimum of once a week, according to the regulator’s report.

Young people are also embracing commercial online services and rejecting the BBC’s streaming service. YouTube (48 per cent) and Netflix (65 per cent) reached more viewers in that age bracket weekly than BBC iPlayer, which has just 26 per cent of youths saying they view it at least once a week — down two points from last year.

The British Broadcasting Corporation is commercial-free and is funded by the licence fee, payment of which is legally required from all those who watch live television, even if they do not watch the BBC, or iPlayer.

Failure to pay the licence fee can result in a £1,000 fine, a court appearance, prosecution, and even imprisonment.

Ofcom fears that if younger people do not watch the BBC, they may challenge the premise of paying the licence.

“If people don’t consider the BBC as a core part of their viewing, then it will be hard to encourage them to pay the licence fee in years to come, and public support for the licence fee could become eroded,” Ofcom said in comments reported by The Times.

The reported concluded that the “BBC may not be sustainable in its current form”.

Last year, media reported that the BBC’s radio stations were also losing listeners as Britons dial into digital and commercial alternatives.

The broadcaster is facing criticism for scrapping free licences for over-75s from June 2020 despite agreeing in 2015 to take over the responsibility for providing them from the government.

In July, a BBC representative told a House of Commons committee that it plans to send “outreach” officers to elderly viewers to remind them that they will now have to pay to watch TV. MPs raised parallels between the “outreach” officers and enforcement officers who check whether people are illegally watching television, expressing concerns that such home visits would upset senior citizens.

The following month, it was revealed that the BBC had handed out pay raises to 1,000 staff at a cost of £7.9 million — the equivalent of 51,000 TV licences for pensioners.

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