'The BBC has lost its place as the national broadcaster'
Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker’s suspension for appearing to breach the BBC’s impartiality rules on social media prompted a resurgence in debate over the BBC licence fee after some Conservative MPs demanded it be scrapped.
Mr Lineker tweeted that the Government’s language about its new migration legislation was “not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 1930s”.
The remark prompted a backlash that saw him forced to step back for one episode of Match of the Day, but he was reinstated after the BBC agreed to review its social media guidance. Tim Davie, director general of the BBC, was criticised for "capitulating" to the presenter.
In light of the news on Friday that the licence fee could rise by £13 next year, the backlash intensified further.
In the wake of the row, an exclusive poll by The Telegraph has found that 90 per cent of over 18,000 readers agree that the BBC should scrap its mandatory licence fee, which is currently set at £159 a year.
Similar results were observed a year ago, when nearly two thirds of the public backed the abolition of the BBC licence fee, according to a survey by pollsters Find Out Now and Electoral Calculus, after former culture secretary Nadine Dorries announced plans to freeze the levy.
One of the overriding reasons, which is echoed by many Telegraph readers, is that the corporation lacks impartial and objective journalism, with some describing it as “regressive and out of date”.
‘The BBC has lost its place as the national broadcaster’
Telegraph reader Russel Evans argues that the latest debacle over BBC impartiality “could have been a turning point in reversing BBC bias,” but has instead highlighted how “the BBC has lost its place as the national broadcaster and will inevitably lose the licence fee.”
Some remark how the row over Lineker’s “disgraceful tweets” have to be “put in the context of the BBC’s ridiculously biased coverage”. Reader Feude Joie describes how the BBC as an institution has become “hard to trust”, and argues that the Lineker scandal has “brought the day on which the BBC must be completely remodelled much closer”.
‘The BBC no longer represents value for money’
Christopher Ham calls for its abolition as “the BBC no longer represents value for money when the viewing figures are dropping substantially.”
Mr Ham adds: “The BBC is going to have to sell itself and persuade viewers to buy its services rather than sit on its hands and take tax payers money for a very poor service.”
Reader Jeremy Friend says: “The BBC had a duty to educate and inform. Once it decided to compete in the area of sport and entertainment it was probably inevitable that we would eventually finish up with the mess we have. Therefore, it has outlived its usefulness.
“It seems incredible that the highest paid celebrity on the BBC is a sports commentator. One would have expected an economics or a science expert, to help us understand government policy. To me that is rather more important than football,” he adds.
‘Either guarantee impartiality or move to a subscription or advertising revenue income model’
Some readers propose alternatives to a compulsory licence fee, with many arguing that privatisation is the only answer.
Reader James Ressidner, for example, suggests that the first step should be to “decriminalise the non-payment of fees”, with the final act of completely defunding it being possible at the next general election, after it becomes a “manifesto pledge” that people can consider and vote for.
“The BBC itself stands to greatly benefit from the freedom this would bring,” he further states.
Reader William Tell believes the BBC is currently “having its cake and eating it”. Mr Tell believes the public broadcaster should either “guarantee its impartiality or move to a subscription or advertising revenue income model”.
A similar sentiment is felt by reader Barney Reichman who questions: “Surely freedom of choice is as equally as important as freedom of speech in a democracy, so why are we being forced to pay for something we don't want?”
A BBC spokesperson said: “Longstanding, independent research shows the Licence Fee remains the most popular way of funding the BBC. It is the agreed method of funding until at least 2027 and ensures the BBC is an independent, universal broadcaster, which invests in UK creativity and talent. Beyond that, we are open minded about the future, and it is right there is a debate on whether the Licence Fee needs to evolve.”