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BBC Charter Review: New study reveals startling lack of public support for BBC in current form

  • Research conducted among 2,000 TV licence fee payers who regularly watch BBC content
  • Of those, only one in three (32.6%) believe BBC should continue to be funded by the licence fee as it currently operates
  • Over 95% would be unwilling to pay more than the current £145.50 a year
  • Only 1 in 5 (21.3%) would be willing to pay more even if the BBC offered more of the type of content they enjoyed
  • Nation divided over BBC funding alternatives, with a scaled fee based on household income leading marginally, winning the votes of 1 in 4 of those surveyed (24.08%)

22 September 2015: With the BBC charter review underway, both the TV licence fee as it currently exists and the future of the BBC itself are under close scrutiny.

That's why popular TV and broadband advice site Cable.co.uk quizzed a cross-section of the British public this last weekend (19-20 September) on their thoughts and attitudes to the fee and the BBC's future.

Unlike previous surveys on the TV licence, respondents were only allowed to take part if they both paid the licence fee personally and regularly watched content offered by the BBC. This measure was taken to mitigate dilution from those with no vested interest (those who exclusively watch Sky, streaming services or DVD and Blu-ray content, or only use their TV for videogames).

Cable.co.uk's consumer TV and broadband expert, Dan Howdle, said: "Public feeling surrounding the licence fee is not, in my opinion, something of which the BBC is entirely the architect. After all, the BBC continues to do what it always has done: provide world-beating content.

“Instead, I believe that the changing attitudes of the general public are down to the rise of alternatives. We can pay a few pounds a month for Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Now TV and a host of other more specialist streaming services such as WWE. Added to that, many of us have a Sky,Virgin Media or BT box under our TVs, offering us access to exactly what we want to watch at any given time.

“The problem, then, becomes not one of the depreciation of BBC content, but one of our expectation of the marketplace. We expect to have a choice. There is a growing feeling that where Netflix and ilk charge us for what we choose to watch, the BBC forces us to pay whether we watch it or not.

“The fact that the licence fee is payable irrespective of household income is something the British public clearly feel has to change. The recent noises toward a household levy, then, would appear to be a sensible direction to aim."

Results in full

Do you believe the TV license fee should continue to operate indefinitely in its current form?

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By which alternative method do you believe the BBC should be funded? (Please select best match)

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In your opinion, the cost of the licence fee is...

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Would you be willing to pay more if the BBC offered more of the type of content you personally consider important?

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What type of additional programming would incline you to pay more for your license fee?

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Notes to editors

  • Gender, location and age breakdowns of the results are available on request
  • If using our research and/or commentary we would deeply appreciate a link either to this page or to https://www.cable.co.uk


What is Cable?

Cable is a broadband, TV and phone comparator, unique news source and consumer champion.

Dan Howdle has been plugged into the attitudes of UK broadband, TV and mobile customers for over two decades, running research fieldwork both nationally and internationally on behalf of the biggest players in the industry. Dan is now consumer telecoms analyst at Cable, as well as more formally operating in the role of its Director of Communications and Content.

An experienced broadcaster, commentator and writer, Dan has appeared on BBC TV and radio, ITV, Sky and in the national papers. Dan has advised Ofcom on issues surrounding service quality, administered Cable’s Broadband Service Quality Awards and sat on the panel of judges for the Internet Service Providers Association annual awards.

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