THE culture war over the BBC licence fee is in full force.
And predictably the usual campaign from the typical Beeb scare mongers has begun.
So let me start by saying: No one is suggesting closing the BBC. No one is suggesting you won’t have Strictly Come Dancing or Match of the Day or even Question Time and Newsnight.
But the media is fundamentally changing. Consumer choice – what you or me choose to consume on the box or on our iPads or phones and at what time – is king.
The idea that by 2027 paying £157.50 for a service that we may choose not to watch or listen to AT ALL is insanity.
It might be unpleasant for BBC lifers but the time has come to accept that the licence fee must evolve into a subscription service, so that the corporation is accountable to viewers and not the current behemoth that puts local newspapers out of business, that competes with national newspaper websites to write about Love Island, and that makes podcasts like Reality Tea all about the MTV reality series Geordie Shore.
That is NOT public service broadcasting. It is a blatant and constant attempt to undercut struggling commercial rivals.
But a sea change is coming. I truly feel it.
Sure, there might be disagreement at Downing Street about exactly what that change will involve.
Personally I’m on the side of Dominic Cummings who wants wholescale cuts. Sell Radio 1 and Radio 2, shut down the sweeping BBC Online department and focus on true public service programming that won’t be provided elsewhere. Then in 2027 allow people the choice about whether they want to pay for what they watch from the BBC or not.
But the plan by Boris Johnson – who The Times reports this morning fancies an evolution not a revolution – is also valid. The first step to decriminalise the licence fee is the start of bringing the BBC back in line.
The fact we’re even having this discussion is the fault of the BBC, which has proven itself to be untrustworthy and lacking in political impartiality in recent years.
It disgraced itself over its coverage of Brexit. It proved it was no longer in touch with vast swathes of the country; the folk outside of London who don’t spend their days eating quinoa salads and quaffing champagne with other members of the liberal media elite.
It proved itself out of touch for failing to predict the biggest story at the most recent election: Boris Johnson’s historic toppling of Labour’s northern red wall.
But what’s most telling is the fact some of the BBC’s biggest proponents are now speaking out to insist the corporation must adapt to change.
Dame Helen Mirren is the latest celeb to dive into the debate over the licence fee
She said this week: “I think the that the licence fee has had its day.”
She joins the BBC’s highest paid presenter Gary Lineker who has said it should be abolished.
In all honesty though so should his contract, which costs licence fee payers £1.75 million a year for minimal work.
Radio 4’s Evan Davis last week said the BBC needs to axe radio stations and either BBC2 or BBC4 rather than keep trimming costs around the edges.
The need for genuine change at the BBC has reached a tipping point.
It has to happen now. Even BBC staffers accept that.
But what form should this change take? Now the fun part starts.