Fallout: The Financial Crisis

BBC opposes sharing license fee

Stephen Beard Jun 16, 2009
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Fallout: The Financial Crisis

BBC opposes sharing license fee

Stephen Beard Jun 16, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: One of the world’s best-known broadcasters suffered a setback today. The BBC learned that it might lose some of its funding. The Beeb is state-owned. It carries no advertising. Most of its revenue comes from a kind of tax called the license fee. And oday, the British government suggested that the BBC might be asked to share some of that money with its commercial competition. From London, Marketplace’s Stephen Beard reports.


STEPHEN BEARD: Commercial broadcasters in Britain have long resented the public largesse enjoyed by the BBC. Viewers foot the bill. Virtually everyone who owns a T.V. has to pay around $230 a year for the privilege. This so-called license fee raises five-and-three-quarter billion for the Beeb. Meanwhile commercial TV and radio have seen their advertising revenues collapse.

Today, as part of a wide ranging set of proposals, Communications Minister Lord Carter suggested a solution.

LORD CARTER: We think there is an important service provided by other news organizations alongside the BBC, and we make it equally clear that we recognize they need funding. But we’re asking for the first time whether the license fee should be shared. And I think that’s worthy of a public debate.

Not according to the BBC, which says it’ll fight the plan tooth and nail. Former Chairman Sir Christopher Bland says the government should not be seeking to sap the Beeb’s financial strength.

CHRISTOPHER BLAND: We have one world class broadcaster in the BBC. It’s the best in the United Kingdom and in Europe. The biggest exporter of programs outside the U.S., and you shouldn’t do anything that will undermine it.

The government has promised a period of consultation over the plan. If it is put into effect, the BBC may consider itself a victim of the recession. While private sector revenues are shrinking, the Beeb’s taxpayer-funded billions seem an embarrassment of riches.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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