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BBC funding: much ado about the cost of a coffee a week


The Political Quarterly



Authors / Editors

Barwise P


Publication Year



BBC funding (the licence fee model and the funding level) has been turned into a big issue out of all proportion to the low financial stakes—equivalent to the cost of one takeaway coffee a week for the whole household, excluding those with free TV licences. This article first proposes and explores three possible reasons for all the fuss: that licence payers take the BBC for granted, underestimating the value they get from it; that the attacks on BBC funding are part of a wider ‘war’ against it, driven by commercial or political vested interests; and that at least some of the criticisms of the licence fee reflect genuine, although much exaggerated, disadvantages. The article then evaluates four alternative funding models: advertising, subscriptions, general taxation and a universal household levy. It argues that the best long-term model would be a flat, universal household levy, with exemptions for those least able to pay, as in Germany, with the funding level set by an independent body organised by Ofcom; and that, because the licence fee is becoming harder to sustain, this new funding model should be introduced at the start of the next BBC Charter in January 2028.


BBC funding; TV licence fee; Subscriptions; Advertising; Taxation; Household levy

Available on ECCH


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