Is the BBC thinking of dropping the TV Licence for something else?
As we and many others have already reported the BBC in an effort to make more money in the face of numerous cutbacks would like to see the current licence fee, where everybody who owns a TV has to pay a licence fee or face criminal charges replaced with a universal household levy that everybody would have to pay regardless of whether you own a TV or even have internet that you could in theory use to watch programmes on iplayer, every household will have to pay. While this isn't in effect yet and probably won't be for some time yet it is what the BBC is pushing pretty hard for and I'd say it's likely that it will happen but what will it involve? Are there alternative systems that may work better?
First it should be noted that Britain won't be the first to adopt this system with most the idea of a household levy coming from Germany which already has a universal household levy called the Rundfunkbeitrag, in which every household pays a fee with some exemptions such as blind people, underage people, those on unemployment benefits, those of education grants who are living away from home and some disabled people get a reduced fee. There's been a lot of resistance to the Rundfunkbeitrag in Germany with many refusing to pay and avoiding prosecution by bogging down the law in paperwork so it can be seen that just the idea of charging everybody equally for TV will be resisted by regular people and the same will likely happen with a household levy in this country.
However, the BBC insists it is fair and the BBC is great value for money that progresses British culture and talent through its programming and that 96% of the population gets some content from the BBC in some way such as online or through the radio even if they don't have a TV, hence the need for a universal levy. However the amount of content the BBC sees as enough to justify a levy is very low with them seeing 5 minutes of radio and 15 minutes of television a week being enough for them to think they've “reached” that person even though that's barely a single song or an entire TV programme, so to say that they reach 96% of the population is based on the lowest estimates and is a very misleading number.
It's also doubtful that it is really value for money as the levy will fund 8 BBC channels, 18 BBC radio stations and the BBC World Service (which means you are also basically funding the BBC to show the likes of Dr Who in America) while the German system is also supported with advertising as well as the levy so it funds 22 TV channels and 67 radio stations and it has far more exemptions that the levy proposed in this country which may continue to exempt those over 75 but won't offer exemption to the blind, disabled, underage or students which makes it seem like less value for money than the already hated Rundfunkbeitrag.
There's no doubt this will bring in more money for the government and BBC with several million more people having to pay for the levy than have to pay for the current licence fee which they could use to improve their programming but there's also no doubt that it will cost money as the amount of people who refuse to pay will rise which means more people will have to be chased up and prosecuted which will cost more money than it does now, perhaps it won't completely negate the monetary gain from the levy but the gain will be decreased and the amount of people prosecuted over petty reasons will increase.
So what are the alternatives? Well the BBC could always start to advertise, everyone hates advertisements and the BBC seems to take pride in its relative lack of them, but if they gave the BBC more revenue while also meaning they no longer see the need for a household levy would it be all bad? Surely sitting through 5 minutes more of advertisements would be preferable to having to pay a new levy. Another alternative would be to ask a subscription fee for online services as it seems to be people who get most there content online therefore dodging the current licence fee that the household levy seems to be targeted at so why not charge a subscription fee, many other services already do the same such as Netflix or various news websites it would basically mean that people who want that content can opt in to paying it rather than be forced to pay a levy whether they want to watch BBC content or not.
So I think it's fairly clearly that the household levy isn't really the best or most fair idea as it targets everybody even people who might have no way to watch the BBC and people who don't watch the BBC with very few exemptions or breaks so it's clear that an alternative would be preferable though chances are greed will win the day and we'll all be facing the levy soon enough.
Research and Stats compiled by Caroline Levesque-Bartlett