BBC: Public share their views on TV licence fee
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Director of policy at the national broadcaster Clare Sumner told a parliamentary committee that a more “fit for purpose” model of regulation was necessary in the age of US streaming giants. She criticised Ofcom for having dithered on letting the BBC extend how long TV programmes remained on iPlayer from 30 days to 12 months in 2019.
“That decision, if you remember, took over a year in the end,” she told peers on the communications and digital committee.
“In a dynamic marketplace where Netflix, Amazon and others are changing almost by the second, I think it is taking too long at the moment.
“I think we should look at it much more as a dynamic, global marketplace.
“That’s actually what we’re competing in, but within a different kind of construct in a way.”
On-demand services have seen a surge in demand in recent years, accelerated by the Covid pandemic.
It has led to traditional broadcasters being forced to compete with rivals who upload content onto online platforms en masse that can be watched at the time and pace of the viewer’s choosing.
Ms Sumner said that when a review into how the BBC is operating as takes place later this year, she hoped the Government would make changes made to regulation.
“The mid-term review is coming up by the Government, that will look at governance and regulation.
“And I think one of the issues, is pace,” she said.
“We should be regulated because we received public money, so we’re not pushing back on being regulated.
“But we need it to be in a more fit for purpose framework.”
The BBC exec expressed her frustration at Ofcom as the broadcaster admitted it was willing to consider long-term changes to its current funding model.
Appearing alongside Ms Sumner, BBC Chairman Richard Sharp said he was willing to take “a blank sheet of paper” when exploring future financial setups.
He said: “The board hasn’t ruled out anything.
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“We’re taking a blank sheet of paper.
“We’ve been charged with the fact the BBC faces an existential question and the board has to take very seriously that charge, to look at all options without preconceptions.
“The fact we understand the value of public service broadcasting informs that, but it doesn’t rule out certain mechanisms, or adjustments we might need to make, or changes.”
Households are currently required to pay £159 a year for a TV licence to watch the BBC.
Ministers believe the system is out of date following the boom in streaming services.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries wants to replace the funding model with a new system from 2027.
“This licence fee announcement will be the last,” she tweeted in January.
“Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content.”
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