BBC in crisis: Broadcaster’s future at risk over failure to adapt – ‘I won’t pay’


THE BBC may face a further funding blow next year if pensioners refuse to start paying to watch the national broadcaster, placing the future of the broadcaster at risk.

The broadcaster is planning to stop subsidising around two thirds of pensioners, which is around four million people aged over 75. This is their attempt to save money, despite spending £3.7 billion from the public purse last year. But the decision in June caused uproar among those who have not paid their licence fee in nearly two decades.

Ellen LeBethe is one pensioner who say she will refuse to pay the new fee.

The 82-year-old from Vauxhall told the FT: “On principle, I won’t pay.”

She added she was not scared about the BBC taking her to court over failing to pay.

Ms LeBethe said: “Let them dare.”

The new licence fee has also been brought up during the Conservative and Labour Party’s election campaigns.

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have vowed to scrap the fee if elected.

Last month, Mr Johnson said the Tories would “put the screws” on the BBC if it refused to fund free licences for people were retired.

He told Parliament: “The BBC has the funds.”

But there have been arguments that the BBC is at threat of losing viewers, particularly young people, from rival streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon.

A senior BBC executive called the loss of younger audiences “very serious”.

They said: “There are many things that are changing, but the BBC absolutely has to deal with the challenge of audiences under 30.”

Ofcom, which regulates the BBC, has also reportedly warned that the drop of younger viewers “may not be sustainable.”

Mark Thompson, a former BBC director-general who is now chief executive at the New York Times, revealed in a speech last month that the average viewer of BBC One alone is now 61.

Tony Hall, the BBC’s director-general since 2013, is not too concerned about the changes.

He said in September: “I believe this is a huge opportunity for people like us.

“In this market, services that are distinctive and different will stand out.”

Culture secretary Nicky Morgan suggested last month she would consider scrapping the £154.50 a year licence and replacing it with a Netflix-style subscription.

But media analysts think this is unlikely because charging viewers to stream BBC programmes would undermine licensing deals it strikes with broadcasters in other countries for popular shows such as David Attenborough’s Planet Earth and hit dramas like Sherlock.

A BBC executive said: “If you turn it into a for-profit subscription service, then that is not a public broadcaster.”

Peter Bazalgette, chairman of ITV, added: “Technology now allows turning the licence fee into a subscription service. But there are strong public interest arguments against it.”

Mr Johnson’s former editor at the Telegraph Charles Moore thinks the government should break up the corporation with “certain bits”.

This includes allowing arts and documentary channel BBC 4 to carry on through voluntary membership modelled on the National Trust of British historic landmarks.


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