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BBC 2017: Which of these 14 options is best to collect 4 billion quid a year?

There are loads of options for BBC funding, if you think about it. I have come up with ten criteria and fourteen funding systems. Which one comes out on top?

How can the BBC be funded from 2017?  How???   Photograph: Shutterstock
How can the BBC be funded from 2017? How??? Photograph: Shutterstock
published on UK Free TV

In the first part of this analysis, I am providing a decision grid to look at the possible funding methods for the BBC.

The scoring criteria are described below. I will return to each method in detail in the coming days.

As ever, I would love to know what you think!

How simple is the system to administer?

The score here relates to if the system proposed is easier or harder to provide than the one used by TV Licensing at the moment.

What is the total cost overhead?

A high score indicates that the money raised will go to programmes, rather than administration. A low values suggests higher admin costs than the TV Licence.

How stable and predicable is the income from the system?

This relates to how reliable the income stream will be. The TV Licence is based on the number of UK households, a value that changes little. The score for this section relates to the predictability of income.

How many people pay something towards the system?

The current system has one payment per household. A higher score indicates the burden is shared out more evenly, a low value if it places a burden on fewer people.

How many people get to use the service?

The current system provides service to everyone who has a TV or a radio. The score here is lower if less people will be using the BBC.

How does the system increase the independence of the BBC from the state?

The TV Licence has some distance between the state that authorizes the collection of the fee and the use by the BBC to make programmes. A low score is given to systems where politicians could hold sway over the BBC.

How does the amount each person pays relate to their wealth?

The current system is based around households, not the wealth of the payer. The score here is higher when richer people contribute more and poorer people less.

How easy is it for the public to understand how they pay for the BBC?

The TV Licence system provides a reasonable linkage between payer and service. A high score here relates to the system proposed providing a more comprehensible link between payment and provision.

How do people opt out of the system if they don't wish to take part?

You can opt out of paying for the BBC is you select to not have a TV. The score here is low if the proposed system has no opt-out for those who oppose the service.

What happens to people who don not pay?

The current system has the backing of criminal sanction. The score here relates to the change in the officiousness of the non-payment punishment.

All questions
BBC Three Linear channel re-opens1
Removing all barriers to communication between diverse cultures2
How do I get a test card with Freeview3
What can I do when my Sky Digibox says 'No Signal' or 'Technical fau4
Can I receive UK TV in Ghana?5
In this section
BBC salami-slicing returns to overnight services?1
#GreatBBC campaign launched2
Goodbye BBC Red Button!3
Want to know how much the BBC spend in England, Scotland, Wales and NI per home?4
S4C and Welsh Exceptionalism?5
BBC future: make sure you make the deadline6

Thursday, 27 March 2014

11:00 PM

James: I was going to reply to your post, but MikeP got there first with pretty much what I was going to say!

The problem with all these alternatives is that they are an attempt at an ideological solution to a problem that largely, in a practical sense, does not exist. Yes, the licence fee does not discrimminate on grounds of income or use, but neither does your phone's standing charge - its a flat rate, as is Sky's minimal package. If your over 75, you get it free, and frankly, its still a lot cheaper than any subscription package.

I can certainly see the advantage of the German system, as KMJ suggested, since pretty much everyone has a TV, radio or a PC, but there are exceptions, and so perhaps its better to leave it be.

Charles Stuart - Iplayer is about to be pay-per-view for certain things (like Netflix), it already on Itunes, and there is no reason at all that Iplayer should only be accessable via a code from your TV LIcence which you register (Now TV works in this way). If your using it, your paying for it.

One of the problems with the 'multi channel licence fee is old school' brigade is that they are only seeing things from their point of view. If you have a fast broadband connection, a Smart TV or Apple TV, etc then this 'download world' is normal, and thus subscription sounds both ideologically/politically attractive and technically possible. They are also the type of people who will rave about Breaking Bad, not Mrs Brown's Boys.

However, most people still watch TV live, many dont have HD and perhaps dont record at all, and have no idea if their TV have smart features, or how to use them. And a good percentage dont have broadband, a 3/4G phone, etc. They like Strictly, Meet the MIdwife, etc. They will also never write a column about why the licence fee is archaic, because they probably have never thought about it, and its something which works fine for them.

The licence fee works. Yes, there is evasion, but even Sky/Virgin suffers from that, and where there is evasion, people need to understand that that is not acceptable. Iplayer loopholes can be closed. The reason there is a 'crisis' is because the licence fee was frozen, and the BBC was expected to do more things with less money. We know that the BBC or licence fee isn't perfect, but FDR put it nicely in 1935 -

'It must, however, be recognized that when an enterprise of this character is extended over more than three thousand counties throughout the Nation, there may be occasional instances of inefficiency, bad management, or misuse of funds. When cases of this kind occur, there will be those, of course, who will try to tell you that the exceptional failure is characteristic of the entire endeavor. It should be remembered that in every big job there are some imperfections.'

Trevor Harris might keep insisting that the licence fee 'is not fit for purpose', but he has no empirical evidence to support that, only words.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag

11:59 PM


Let me explain how weighting works. Take for example a grid for deciding the best printer. You could have three criteria print quality, speed of printing, and cost of the printer. You might decide that print quality was more important than cost and so you would give print quatity a weight of 2 and cost a weight of 1. If speed of printing is less important than than cost you could give speed a weight of 0.5. In order to get a score you would add the results of multiplying the individual scores by thier weight to get a score. In your case you have considered all your criteria equal value so you have given them equal weight.

In real life it would be more complicated than this in that the weighting system would be non linear.

Actually as originally conceived the license fee was fit for purpose. The BBC was the only broadcaster and only those that used the service payed for it. Perfectly fair. The license fee started to become unfit for purpose when ITV started. Why should people pay for the BBC if they only wanted to watch ITV. It is the age of multi media and multi channel which has made the license fee untenable.

I believe that the move to decriminalize license fee evaision has come about because more people are becoming very uncomfortable with license fee.

Another issue is just how big should the BBC be. Should it just be alowed to continuously incease in size for ever. Who decides how big it should be?

The BBC does alot of self advertising on its channels. It already has stakes in subscription/advert base tv channels. It is already parlty funded by subscriptions and adverts. It is also funded by its own buisness ventures.

The only criteria I would use is that only the people who use the service should pay for it. With that principle poorer people will have the choice of over 200 free to air channels for no fee.

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trevorjharris's 367 posts GB flag
Friday, 28 March 2014

12:41 AM

1. No more bills in the post and no more threatening letters and get rid of that office in Bristol that generates these letters will save monies on postage and enforcement officers and running costs

2. There are too many Radio stations catering for differing nationalities plus BBC Alba that most don't understand as they talk in Gaelic. THere are also Asian Radio Stations?
Just keep radios 1 to 6 (Omit five as this is only a talking station. Privatise the national stations like BBC Oxford etc.

3. Reduce the amount of TV stations under the BBC.

4. There is no need to have it over run by adverts but maybe they could make monies by having Such and such sponsors Eastenders (As long as it is not Payday Lenders and the Gambling fraternity that currently run Britain. These days you can't go to the toilet with out an advert for gambling coming on TV.

5. Do they need the BBC trust? what do they do?

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Michael's 368 posts GB flag

6:47 AM

trevorjharris: I know how weighting works, thank you.

I was educated to degree level in maths and did Statistics as one of my A-Levels. It was a long-time ago, but I'm sure I have not forgotten.

I didn't wish to use any weighting because that would prejudge the outcome of the exercise.

My aim here - and I admit is different from yours - is to think on the matter without prejudice.

What you have is "an opinion", what I am aiming to provide is "analysis".

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag

6:53 AM

Michael: Thanks for the list, but it's not really one of "payment system criteria".

(1) They do it all online these days. Your Licence is a PDF.

(2) See the graphic on TV Licence decriminalization: just how much is it going to cost you? | BBC 2017 | - 11 years of independent, free digital TV advice

(3) Ditto

(4) There's no money in sponrship. It raised £184m last year for the whole of the TV sector.….pdf page 10.

(5) is easy BBC - BBC Trust - Governing the BBC

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag
Mike Dimmick

2:36 PM

KMJ,Derby: There is unlikely to be a more efficient system than DVB-T2 any time in the next ten years. I previously calculated that the Shannon limit - the theoretical maximum achievable using a single transmit and receive aerial - for the channel conditions for the PSB3, COM7 and COM8 multiplexes is 47.27 Mbit/s. That compares to 40.21 Mbit/s that has already been achieved. The turbo codes used in DVB-T2 are said to get within 0.04 dB of the Shannon limit, though that is with codes 10 million bits long, rather than the 64,800 bits used in DVB-T2.

Any further improvements are likely to require multiple aerial techniques, which is difficult as viewers aren't going to want to install more than one receive aerial.

Encryption is perfectly possible on DVB-T and DVB-T2 as they stand. Freeview boxes have generally included a CAM slot (CI specification) and it was a European requirement for integrated digital TVs to include one. Top Up TV provided a CAM for viewing ESPN, and would have done so for Sky Sports had Sky not prevented it. They complained that the CI specification only encrypts from the transmission to the CAM - the CAM returns data to the box unencrypted, so it theoretically could be plugged into a computer and content ripped from there. The newer CI+ specification, which I believe newer TVs support, protects the communication between the box and the CAM.

However, YouView boxes do not have a CAM slot. This was a deliberate design decision. My Humax DTR-T1010 has a recess in the moulding where a CAM could go, but there's nothing behind it as far as I know.

The problem, as always, is that distributing and managing CAMs and smartcards, activating and deactivating cards when subscribers join or leave (or don't pay), costs money: far more than the actually very low cost of managing the licence fee.

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Mike Dimmick's 2,486 posts GB flag

5:15 PM

Mike Dimmick: Whilst the transmission part of DVB-T2 is at the theoretical maximum, there will still be Moore's Law operating on the viability of compression/decompression software.

The High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) High Efficiency Video Coding - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia is being pencilled in to improve the number of services and/or image resoultion in the coming decade.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag

11:19 PM

Not sure Moore Law still applies to video compression. HEVC encoders are becoming available but as far as I can see not reached the its goal yet. There is a new transmision technique call Orbital Angular Momentum Multiplexing which should reduce bandwidth requirements.

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trevorjharris's 367 posts GB flag
Saturday, 29 March 2014

7:28 AM

trevorjharris: Moore Law's certainly does apply to the hardware used in the coder and decoder equipment.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts GB flag
11:37 AM

Re: The License Fee - I am middle aged & middle class - so the license fee works for me, but there are huge swathes of the population for whom it does not. Criminalising students in bedsits is nuts - nuclear families are no longer the norm. Snooping around trying to find non payers is costly and invasive. We do not need a TV Licensing Authority - many other billing systems exist. The license fee has to go and be replaced by an easy to administer form of mass funding that bears some relationship to income without being subject to political manipulation.

Re: Compression HEVC/H265 aims to be twice as efficient as AVC/H264, but is much more computationally intensive. AFAIK it implies new STBs / Decoder Boxes as well.

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James's 11 posts GB flag
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