Enter Sky – and Britons gained access to subscription based televison for the first time. And by and large we seem prepared to pay on a subscription basis for channels we want to watch. Todays channel line-up offers us a panoply of programming which can choose to pay for if we want it.
So where does that leave the BBC. Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of the BBC and everything it stands for. But it now wants to compete in the multi-channel world offering a la carte television, radio and internet to a hungry audience. The license fee model just doesn’t stack up any more. Why should the moderate consumer who just wants a couple of programmes a week on BBC1 be forced to pay for this ever broadening output?
It is time to draw up a roadmap for future funding of the BBC which needs to be a mixture of commercial advertising and subscription based models dependent on what is appropriate for each service. Consumers of television in the 21st century should not be forced to pay a ‘one price fits all’ fee no matter how much or how little BBC they consume. Safeguards to editorial independence must be part of this plan, that is sacrosanct. Until the government is prepared to deal with this, the BBC will continue to have no other option than to keep going cap-in-hand to the poor license-payer.