Towards the end of last week several UK media outlets reported on remarks made by John Whittingdale MP concerning the future of the compulsory licence fee.
The Guardian, for example, reported that:
“The BBC licence fee is “worse than the poll tax” with non-payment “almost certain” to be decriminalised, according to the chair of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee. […]
“I don’t think there is any serious possibility of the licence fee going this charter renewal,” he said. “I think in the longer term we are potentially looking at reducing at least a proportion of the licence fee that is compulsory and introducing an element of choice.”
Whittingdale added: “In the long term it is unsustainable. When I say unsustainable in the long term, I’m talking about over 20, 50 years … I don’t like the idea of a licence fee, I would prefer to link it perhaps to some other tax, and I think decriminalisation is almost certain to happen.
“Most people already accept that the licence fee as it is currently structured needs some tweaking to deal with anomalies, like the fact on catch-up you don’t need a licence fee, whereas live streaming you do. People’s viewing habits have changed and we need to reflect that.”
“The DCMS chair had been “disappointed” by comments made last week by newly appointed BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead that the licence fee “does not need fixing.”
Appearing before the DCMS select committee, Fairhead said she assumed that the licence fee works, is effective and “the public broadly supports it”.”
So where did the new head of the BBC Trust get that idea? The Telegraph may have provided some insight into that question in its report on the topic.
“He [Mr Whittingdale] added BBC-commissioned research showing the public overwhelmingly support the licence fee had been the result of the corporation setting its own questions, as he called for a wider “package” of options to be presented to viewers.” [emphasis added]
Can we presume that the apparently problematic BBC-commissioned research showing ‘overwhelming’ public support for the licence fee which is now being used to promote the case for the continuation of the compulsory licence fee was funded by none other than the people who are obliged to pay the licence fee?