Updated: Jun 12, 2020
Bojo verses the BBC
Boris Johnson declared in the run up to the 2019 election that he was considering the removal of the license fee. Given his 80-seat majority, the implementation of this controversial policy seems completely within his grasp.
The BBC has garnered criticism from all sides of the political spectrum for being too left-wing, too right-wing, too pro-EU and too anti-EU. That the BBC is attacked from all sides is used by some as evidence of the station’s neutrality; as each side of the political field argue that they are on the receiving end of BBC bias, they are arguably demonstrating its even handedness.
Does the public have trust issues with the BBC?
In the last year the majority of the British public (48%) do not trust the BBC compared to the 44% who do.
There seems to be a rare consensus amongst supporters of the UK’s two main parties with both Labour and Conservative voters not fully trusting the BBC, with 53% and 49% trusting the Beeb respectively.
HAVE YOUR SAY: With Churchill's Statue now boarded up; Churchill Saved Us, Now we Must Save Him - Vote in our poll to keep Winston up!
These findings are shocking in light of a 2017 survey commissioned by the BBC which found that the BBC is seen as the news source that people turn to for impartial news. What is even more shocking is the degree in which this is the case.
Is the BBC biased?
Despite the views held in social media comment sections the BBC has been found to have a minimal centre-left bias. This being the apparent result of the liberal culture within the BBC which originates from its London location. Conservatives tend to receive more screen time as a result of being the incumbent party during the last 10 years but this may be on the decrease given the current PM’s lack of interviews during the election campaign and since.
In regard to Brexit coverage however, the BBC has shown a bias by providing significantly less of a platform to Pro-Brexit speakers.A compilation of 11 surveys showed that since the 2016 referendum BBC coverage has had more pro-remain contributors than pro-leave.
However, such a bias may in part be due to 9 out of 10 academics having supported the campaign to remain. The same can be said for economists and business leaders with the majority predicting that Brexit will negatively affect the UK’s economic prospects in the future. Given that more than 10% of speakers within all BBC programmes are in favour of leaving it can be argued that the BBC is at least trying to prevent an overwhelming lack of pro-leave voices.
Should the public stop paying for the BBC via the license fee?
As the license fee is the BBC’s main source of funding any alternatives would need to be comprehensive. A report from Ampere Analysis has assessed four alternatives including, subscription, introduction of advertising, a levy on Internet Service Providers (those who supply access to the internet), and an income tax.
Whilst each alternative has it benefits and downsides, the overall message is consistent. If the licence fee is removed the BBC will be underfunded unless a collection of measures are taken. This is despite the 20% cut in funding that the BBC was given during the austerity period.
The most promising suggestion following examples from Sweden, Norway, and Croatia would be an income tax as Westminster could ensure that funding met the BBC’s requirements. This would also allow means based contributions with those who cannot afford to pay still having access to the service.