Independent readers discuss whether BBC TV licence is good value for money as fee set to rise

TV licence fee (Alamy Stock Photo)
TV licence fee (Alamy Stock Photo)

Independent readers are divided on whether the BBC licence fee is value for money.

It comes after the Government announced an increase to the payment for 2024.

Those who watch or record broadcasted TV programmes, must have a TV licence either through purchase or given free to those receiving pension credit and 75 years or older.

It pays for BBC services including TV, radio, the BBC website, podcasts, iPlayer and apps and its existence is guaranteed until the end of 2027 at least by the BBC’s royal charter, which sets out its funding and purpose.

The fee had been frozen at £159 over the last two years and on Thursday the Government has announced it will now rise by £10.50 to £169.50 from April 2024.

However, this is a reduced amount as the planned rise had been around £15 next year.

We asked you how you felt about the TV licence. While some readers believed the fee offered “good value”, many also agreed the broadcaster was ”a shell” of its former self.

Solutions to make the output more appealing included emphasising the broadcaster’s impartiality and independence of the Government; keeping the price freeze in place; introducing adverts; and offering a pay-per-view service.

Here’s what Independent readers had to say:

‘It remains a treasure’

Some people are commenting that the BBC is now a shell of what it used to be. I agree but would say that it has been forced into this position, largely by the government.

Government has slashed funding and increased the burden on the BBC. E.g. the world service used to be funded from military budgets, the most visited website in the world now carries a fraction of content (and pages translated to local languages). Local radio is currently being decimated. The free TV licences for pensioners... I could go on. All of these, and more, have served to reduce its value and reach as a public service and trusted broadcaster. Incredibly, all of this despite appointing supportive, government cherry-picked, leaders for the BBC. So, yes it is increasingly struggling to maintain the same quality of service.

In the defence of the BBC, even in its repressed current form, it remains a treasure and, importantly, has surprisingly retained its trusted value globally. It always has, and still does, lead in setting technical and production standards that the rest strive to follow. Whether those strengths are in such things as broadcast technique and standards (e.g. broadcast UHD, HDR, digital radio, online delivery, etc.), teaching materials and delivery during the covid epidemic and indeed its sizable worldwide syndicated programming. The BBC does have substantial impact on our global standing and in sharing our cultures and values. It delivers public services and content that private sector broadcasters wouldn’t ever touch with a bargepole.

I would argue that the TV licence should be scrapped. Instead, funding should come from an appropriate level of general taxation which would also have the effect of restoring a service to those that cannot currently afford paid-for TV.


‘Definitely good value’

Three quid a week is definitely good value. Compare what you pay for Netflix or Prime and what you get for your money from them with what you get from the Beeb.


‘I would rather see adverts’

No government should decide the future of the BBC, and no government should be able to use it as its mouthpiece. Somehow they manage to get everything wrong because they are forever looking over their shoulder.

Unless complete independence is written into their charter and our political constitution then there is no way forward for them. I hate to say this but I would rather see adverts than have them bow and scrape to any government.


‘Humanely put to sleep’

Go back 20 years and I would be more than happy to pay it. Today however, BBC has become a second rate set of channels.

Sports are disappearing faster than the glaciers; news programmes have been overtaken by other channels including the likes of Al Jazeera; decent dramas, which was their forte, are now few and far between and the oversized, overpaid over indulged corporation has drifted down to the lowest common denominator and only show trite, no brain, nonsense.

Alleged popular programming Survivor, dreadful ‘new’ comedy, uninteresting quiz shows, people walking and train riding all over the UK and the world etc are insipid. There are also numerous people mainly youngsters who never watch the BBC so why should we/they pay for a TV licence to the BBC? Outmoded, outdated, they should now be humanely put to sleep.


‘Remain frozen’

I think the licence fee should remain frozen, purely to reflect the sheer amount of repeats shown, the lack of new programmes, and the obscenely high salaries paid.

I dislike the lack of impartiality in the organisation, and the rise of journalistic news reporters. I much preferred the news read and given as facts, not interspersed by the opinions of the presenters.


‘I do not need BBC channels’

I feel it is not fair for me to pay for the TV licence when I do not watch BBC at all. I am retired and watch a lot of films from Internet. I do not need BBC channels.


‘No more than £13 a month’

I’m in my early 70s and don’t mind paying the licence fee - by monthly direct debit. The BBC channels are the ones I watch most and I view lots of films, drama series and other programmes on playback. I don’t subscribe to Sky, Netflix and so on, and can just about afford the monthly fee. I would however prefer not to pay anymore than £13+ a month.

In Italy, the licence fee is €9,00 a month and the RAI channels all include advertising. I wouldn’t mind some advertising on the BBC. The format between each programme is structured in the same way as commercial advertisements in any case. I would however prefer ‘ethical or green’ advertising: no alcohol, non-recyclable plastic products, sweets or high-sugar products, gambling sites, oil, electricity, gas and water companies or ads designed especially for children.


‘Archaic tax’

The BBC think they represent good value for the licence fee regardless of how you feel it is time this archaic tax was scrapped. Personally I would like to see them go pay per view.


‘Neurotic desire to appease everybody’

We need an ad-free public service broadcaster as commercial sponsorship often lowers standards and independence - witness the sad decline of Channel 4 since its inception.

The BBC’s problems now are its neurotic desire to appease everybody and its belief that the solution to everything is more layers of management and nannying bureaucracy. It also wastes vast sums of money on millionaire football nerds and celebrity news presenters.

The programme commissioning process is top-heavy and increasingly on the Hollywood model. The answer is to slim down the management and eliminate some of the gate-keepers. BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds are steps in the right direction into the digital landscape. Some of John Reith’s attitudes are absurd today but he believed that a national broadcaster should be a cultural leader. If the BBC can reinvent itself I’ll be happy to pay the licence fee. But there’s a lot of work to be done...


‘The BBC is meant to be a public service’

The BBC is meant to be a public service, not government broadcaster. The government, which detests the expression of views or opinions out of line with its own has been steadily attcking the institution, with the ready assistance of such vested interests as Murdoch or Harmondsworth.

Rather tragically, the BBC has failed stoutly to defend what ought to be its own ideals, and has degraded itself. If a broadcaster free from commercial constraints and which belongs to us all is to justify itself, it ought to return to the kind of output it still manages to broadcast on radio stations.


Some of the questions and answers have been edited for this article. You can read the full discussion in the comments section of the original article.

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