Study shows most households in favour of licence fee
Staff Reporter | On 26, Aug 2015
A study by the BBC suggests that the majority of British households are happy to pay the licence fee as it stands.
The research, commissioned by the Beeb and conducted by independent research agency MTM, saw 70 households go without the BBC’s services for little over a week to see what they would miss and whether it would change their view of the BBC.
Nationally, seven in 10 households (drawn from across the UK) said that they are willing to pay the current level of the licence fee or more, so the research focused on the minority who said that, given the choice, they either think the licence fee is too high (24) or would prefer not to pay at all and not receive the BBC (24).
Apps and websites were removed or blocked, TV channels locked, and pre-set radio stations changed during the nine-day trial, with participants given £3.60 – the equivalent licence fee amount for the nine days. 33 out of the 48 households who originally said they would prefer to not pay or pay less changed their minds and said they would be willing to pay the full licence fee for the BBC.
Various reasons were given, including being unable to find alternatives for programmes and services they enjoy on the BBC, valuing advert-free programmes, young families not being able to find educational content to match CBBC and CBeebies, participants missing access to Red Button and BBC iPlayer, News and Sport, and – specifically – an inability to find a replacement for Radio 2 with its presenters and mix of music.
Nick North, Director of BBC Audiences, says: “This rigorous study enabled us to follow a group of UK households through their weekly routine to explore their media habits and to identify those occasions – the big must-see shows or the small moments woven into their daily lives – where they felt a sense of loss without the BBC.
“The results showed overwhelmingly that most people felt they got great value from the BBC when they came to realise the full range and breadth of what we provide – often in quite stark contrast to what they thought in advance of the experiment.”
The findings arrive at a crucial time for the public service broadcaster, as the Royal Charter goes up for review next year and the Tory government has voiced concerns that the BBC should narrow its remit.
The broadcaster is already under pressure to become more efficient following a behind-closed-doors agreement that has given the Beeb full responsibility for subsidising free TV licences for over-75s, a bill that will be compensated for by promises to modernise the licence fee and end the loophole that currently allows people to stream catch-up content on iPlayer without paying.
Earlier this year, Director General Tony Hall announced that the BBC will cut more than 1,000 jobs to help cover losses. BBC Three, meanwhile, is being turned into an online-only channel.
The results have also been published ahead of a speech by Culture Secretary John Whittingdale at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, which the Guardian reports is expected to be critical of the Beeb.
Hall today warned that further cuts to the corporation’s funding and remit could cause more than 30,000 jobs to be lost, not just across the corporation, but the whole TV industry.