The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee has launched a call for evidence into the funding of the BBC.

The Corporation receives an annual income of £5 billion of which £3.6 billion comes from the licence fee. The Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries, has said there will be a review of the licence fee model by government but the fear is that it will be tarred by the very same sort of bias that Dorries and her team accuse the BBC of practicing.

Defenders make much of the BBC World Service with an audience of 279 million per week, the success of its news web site and the 5.8 million children supported by the Bitesize Education service during lockdown.

For this writer, it seems little is said of the BBC in relation to drama, writers or coverage of live performance, as well as many other aspects of its output, nor about what is expected from a national public service broadcaster a hundred years after it first started radio broadcasting, with the first television pictures tested seven years later.

Nor is enough said about the source of funding or what BBC programming would look like if the present model was dismantled. Would necessity result in wall-to-wall populist content driven by the need for advertising revenue, or perhaps homogenised programming bought off-the-shelf so you can turn on a television in York or in New York and get the same offering?

Taking previous Committee reports as its basis, it will consider:

  • How will new technologies and consumer habits change the future broadcasting landscape?
  • What is the purpose of a national broadcaster?
  • What principles and priorities should inform the choice of the BBC’s funding model—and how would any alternative funding models affect what the BBC can provide?
  • How should the BBC change over the next five years to adapt to evolving consumer habits and needs—and what does the Corporation need to do to prepare for the future in the longer term?
  • What actions and consultations are needed from the government to inform its future BBC funding plans?

The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee is chaired by Baroness Stowell of Beeston who said, “the broadcasting landscape is shifting rapidly, with intense competition, rising production costs and changing viewing habits.

“Developments in technology have led to increasing choice for people about what they watch, how and when.

“Our inquiry will look at this changing media landscape and examine how the BBC should be funded in the future to deliver what is needed from a national public service broadcaster.”

The Committee is interested in hearing from a wide range of perspectives and encourages those with experience or expertise to contribute.