BBC Should Be Partly Privatised: UK Taxpayers’ Alliance

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
October 26, 2021 Updated: October 26, 2021

The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA), a UK pressure group campaigning for a low-tax society, has called for the part privatisation of the BBC and the scrapping of the “outdated” licence fee.

In a new report (pdf) released on Tuesday, the TPA said that “a part privatisation of the BBC would abolish the outdated licence fee and see the broadcaster funded by a direct government grant.”

The BBC faces a mid-term review of its charter next year, with the licence fee model guaranteed until 2027.

Under the model, residents in the UK are required to purchase a TV licence if they watch or record programmes on a TV, computer, tablet, mobile phone, or any other device that can receive a TV signal. A TV Licence costs £159 ($220) a year.

The TPA report proposed that most of the BBC should be sold off and the corporation cut down to one television channel, radio station, and online service, which will be funded by a small government grant. “This leaner BBC could then return to concentrating on news and culturally-focused programming,” the report said.

According to the report, a potential sale of BBC shares could generate up to £5 billion ($7 billion) for the government, enough to increase the tax-free personal allowance by £300 ($415).

The report also called for Channel 4, another British public broadcaster, to be floated on the stock market, saying it would “end the need for taxpayers to act as the final guarantor for the corporation” and would “ensure a broader range of potential owners than a direct sale to another company.”

The TPA said that making drastic changes to both the BBC and Channel 4 would “provide billions in revenues, which can be used to cut taxes and enable them to compete more effectively against streaming services while maintaining public service output.”

TPA chief executive John O’Connell said: “In the age of streaming, it’s ridiculous that we have two publicly-owned broadcasters.”

He urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to use the upcoming budget to “unshackle these media giants from the taxpayer and let them stand on their own two feet.”

“That will benefit not just the public and taxpayers, but the broadcasters themselves,” said O’Connell.

In a statement in response to the TPA report, the BBC said: “The BBC has a Royal Charter in place for a number of years and which sets out the scale and scope of its activities.”

A Channel 4 spokesman stressed that the channel “does not cost the taxpayer a penny” and has been “commercially funded since launch.”

PA contributed to this report.