Licence to change: BBC future funding report welcomed

The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee has released a report looking into the future of BBC funding.

The report highlights the need for the BBC to define its future role more clearly, including setting out options for future funding models that go beyond the existing licence fee system.

Whilst the report concentrated on paywalls or hybrid funding models for television and online content, radio was also discussed.

The report highlights it is not technically feasible to develop conditional access technology for analogue radio. “We heard it may be possible for DAB, though Claire Enders told us this would not provide good value for money. All DAB sets would have to be replaced, including in-car radios.”

Noting that the switchover from analogue television to DTT cost approximately £500 million, she argued “the radio sector is not significant enough to find these resources. The overall income of radio advertising is not far north of £500 million anyway.”

The report goes on to say: “We do not recommend a funding model that places BBC radio behind a paywall unless and until both FM and DAB radio listening decline to the point that a switch-off is feasible. We do not believe this is likely within the next 15 years at least.”

Radiocentre has welcomed the report. Matt Payton, Chief Executive, said: “The Lords Committee is a welcome voice of reason in the debate on the BBC funding. As they acknowledge, it’s simply not viable to place all of the BBC’s radio services behind a subscription paywall.

“Any attempt to move to funding BBC services by advertising would also do irreparable harm to both the services offered by the BBC and the sustainability of commercial broadcasters.

“We look forward to continuing our discussions with Government and parliamentarians on this crucial issue.”

Arqiva’s Chief Executive Officer Shuja Khan also responded, saying: “Today’s report from the Lords Communications and Digital Committee addresses the hugely important question of the future of broadcasting.

“I was pleased to give evidence to the Committee’s inquiry about the prevalence of Digital Terrestrial Television in the UK. We welcome their acknowledgement of the continued significance of DTT for millions of people across the country.

“Research shows that the public wants to see continued support for DTT, which is particularly important for vulnerable groups, including older people, as well as those in rural areas.

“That’s why we recently launched the Broadcast 2040+ campaign, to secure a commitment from Government on safeguarding these critical services for the long term.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Committee in the months ahead as they build on the outcomes of their inquiry.”