Future of Television

10 June 2009 – 10:56 am

Last night I was invited to an excellent event hosted by Richard Lindley, formerly of BBC’s Panorama programme. The investigative show had a massive following under Richard’s stewardship in the 1980’s and 90’s.

The audience at his event was a mixed media crowd. Who seemed like big TV fans. This may sound odd to people outside the business, but media types can be snobbish about TV, insinuating it is some form of lower entertainment and not really a cultural activity.

Odd, when for example there are so many good history shows, natural world documentaries, in-depth current affairs programmes and top notch comedy and drama. Hardly low brow stuff.

Following heated exchanges and much applause, I was not entirely sure what the main point of Richard’s debate was, (but this did give it a nice freeflow style). There was a lot of talk about whether the BBC licence fee should be split between the BBC and commercial broadcasters, to create a more level playing field and encourage wider quality programming. The discussion oscillated around this point in several forms.

To me it seems the TV types are only thinking in one formula. When there are various shades of approach that can be taken, to narrow the gap between the BBC with its currently guaranteed licence fee and commercial broadcasters experiencing falling advertising revenue.

In my view, there needs to be an overhaul of the licence fee. It is a poll tax and for people who do not like broadcast, seems an imposition on them. We should in no way dumb down the BBC to save a bit of money, but there do need to be some changes. Time has moved on, and we are no longer in the advent of the TV decade, where the licence fee was the clear solution.

After the event I was speaking with some attendees about a tiered fee structure for BBC services, where different people pay different rates for different packages. If Sky and the like can do this, why not the BBC? It seems fair and will stop many of the stories in the tabloids about the BBC wasting licence payers’ money. The viewer, listen and surfer pay for what they use.

What do you think? Does the licence fee have a future? Is there potentially a better and fairer system? How can the BBC compete going forward? Should product placement and other commercial activity be encouraged?

Finally, thanks to the debaters, who really did make this a fun and interesting event. Peter Bazalgette, Nick Ross, Laurence Marks and of course, Richard Lindley.

  1. 3 Responses to “Future of Television”

  2. Before there is any change to the license fee we need to establish what the BBC is for and I use the collective ‘we’ deliberately. Do we think that it’s important to have a ‘public’ broadcaster free from certain commerical considerations or could the commerical broadcasters fill the void if say for example the BBC ceased to exist?

    Once we have at least some collective idea of what the BBC is for then we can work out how to pay for it.

    By Tony C on Jun 10, 2009

  3. @Tony C. I agree. The role of the BBC needs to be defined. I do not think the commercial sector could plug a gap left by the BBC. By its non-commercial nature it is able to offer a public service. Rather than having to chase the largest audience at any cost.

    By Xavier on Jun 13, 2009

  4. @Everyone, I had this anonymous comment sent in recently. Which makes interesting reading.

    “We are not allowed to comment publicly on any blog; however, I completely agree with the points you raise – time moves on and the licence fee does need to be reviewed. For a lot of us working in financial services, our view of the BBC has changed so much, based on having an inside view on what they’re reporting. Previously we credited the BBC brand with impartial and balanced reporting, but Robert Peston in particular, it seems, has been on a personal crusade to break exclusives based on leaks which have then had some influence on the markets. Really annoys me that I have no option but to contribute to funding that. If they’re going to behave in a commercial way and race to break exclusives regardless of the consequences, they should be funded in a commercial way. They can’t have their cake and eat it.”

    By Xavier on Jun 16, 2009

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