Results from the BBC Charter Review Public Consultation were released by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on the 1st March 2016.
With the Royal Charter, the constitutional basis of the BBC, due to expire at the end of 2016, the public were encouraged to engage and respond about the future of the BBC in four key areas; Why the BBC? It’s mission, purpose and values, What the BBC does: scale and scope, Funding and Governance and regulation.
The consultation asked 19 questions, and saw one of the largest ever responses to a government consultation, proving just how important the future of the BBC is to the public. In addition to the huge public response, a large number of in-depth responses were received from key industry experts and organisations.
In total 192,564 responses were received via emails, letters and online survey responses.
Why the BBC?
This area looked at the mission, purpose and values of the BBC – what is the BBC for, examining the overall rationale for the BBC and the case for reform of its public purposes.
When questioned about the purpose of the BBC, the majority of responses suggested that supporting the wider creative economy and partnerships should be included in addition to other specific interests including: supporting the music industry, emphasising adult education, sports, health, children’s services, and reflecting and promoting the UK’s nations and regions.
A number of organisations agreed that the creation of a set of values explicitly stated in the Charter could help the BBC’s regulator to assess whether the BBC is performing as it should and will give BBC staff a clear guide on the behaviours expected of them. The response from the BBC Executive stated that the values set out in the consultation document aligned with their ambitions for the BBS: being independent, impartial, high quality, efficient, value for money, transparent, distinctive, diverse and representative.
What the BBC does
This section focused on the scale and scope of the BBC – what the BBC therefore should do, examining the services it should deliver and the audiences it should be seeking to serve;
Less than 3% of responses address the quested of what the BBC’s role should be in influencing the future technological landscape. Several organisations did, however, suggest that the BBC should continue to pioneer and lead the development of broadcasting and other new technologies, explaining that the industry has previously benefited from this. Despite the positive impact, it was mentioned the BBC’s role can also have some negative consequences, and it’s been argued that they should not be undertaking expensive research activities which are already being undertaken elsewhere in the market.
Over 81% of responses indicated that the BBC is serving its audiences well, and 74% indicated that the content provided I sufficiently high quality and distinctive from that of other broadcasters.
A key focus in the review is around funding of the BBC – how the BBC should be paid for, examining not just future potential funding models but related issues such as efficiency and value for money. The BBC currently receives over £3.7 billion of public investment each year from the TV licence fee, and the future funding model is a key piece in moving forward.
When asked how we should pay for the BBC and how the licence fee should be modernised, 59.8% of respondents agreed that no change was needed, a potentially surprising response following recent debates. However 15% indicated that some change was required, in particular, to close the iPlayer “loophole”.
A large number of organisations were interested in the idea of a universal levy, including the BBC Executive which stated: ‘Medium-term reform of the licence fee by universally levying it on all households, as happens in Germany, merits consideration.’ Most added that significant research needs to be undertaken in order to understand the consequences of this approach. Many others also shared general concerns about the regressive nature of the licence fee and levy, which they felt should be addressed during the Charter Review
The final area within the review looks at governance – how the BBC should be overseen, examining options for the reform of the current Trust model alongside other matters of governance.
A high proportion of responses from organisations were fully supportive of reforming the BBC’s current model of governance and regulation, but there were varying approaches on how to best achieve this. Across the board, the most common suggestions was that there should be a unitary board with some form of independent regulation although there were differing views as to which regulatory model would be preferable.
The government will be taking into account the views from the consultation together with other evidence, including research the Department of Culture, Media and Sport have commissioned and independent reviews, to develop the proposals for the next BBC Royal Charter.
The next stage of the Charter Review – a White Paper – will be released in Spring by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
The full BBC Charter Review Public Consultation: Summary of Responses can be viewed on the GOV.UK website here https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/bbc-charter-review-public-consultation
DTG Staff | 02.03.2016