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Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

Funding report advises BBC to pursue more commercial opportunities

By Paul McNally

A report into the future of BBC funding has recommended that the corporation make more money through commercial ventures – but the BBC has denied that a subscription-based service is another option being considered.
The corporation has confirmed some of the contents of the review, led by £295,000-a-year director of strategy James Purnell, but has denied yesterday's Sunday Times front page which claimed one option was the launch of a subscription service in the place of the licence fee.
The future funding of the BBC is in the spotlight, with its charter up for renewal in 2017. The BBC is the largest employer of journalists in the UK, with 8,000 on its payroll, and has an annual licence fee income of £3.7bn.
The BBC said in a statement: "The report recommends that the BBC pursue an inflationary licence fee increase with greater commercial revenue. No subscription model is recommended."
In a leader column today, the Daily Telegraph argues that the BBC licence fee in its current form "cannot be sustained".
It is evident that the traditional way of funding the BBC since its foundation in 1922 is coming to an end…
The link between the fee and TV ownership will be broken further this week when the BBC announces a big expansion of its iPlayer service. It is envisaged that viewers will be charged to download programmes from the BBC Store. Once this happens, it is impossible to see how the licence fee can possibly survive.
In a digital age, no one entertainment provider enjoys a monopoly on our viewing habits worthy of a mandatory subsidy, and nor should it be used to finance online news content that undermines newspapers.
On Friday, justice secretary Chris Grayling mooted the idea of making the non-payment of the licence fee a civil rather than criminal matter to ease the pressure on courts.
Cases of people accused of evading the £145.50 annual fee accounted for in excess of one in 10 of all criminal prosecutions last year – with 155,000 convicted and fined.

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