Public service broadcasting proved vital during the pandemic but has an unsustainable funding model

The pandemic has reiterated the value of public service broadcasting in the UK, with a wide variety of programmes seeing increased viewing figures, however it is has also demonstrated that the current funding and charter model based on the license fee is untenable. News bulletins, government press conferences/briefings, educational programmes, and entertainment programmes have all seen greater engagement from viewers across the UK. The broadcasting and media landscape in the UK is very fragmented both in terms of delivery technologies and types of content, but public service broadcasting delivered by either terrestrial or satellite is the only video media that almost everyone has access to and therefore has proved invaluable for the following purposes:

1. Informing the public about changes to restrictions brought in to control the spread of COVID19

2. Answering questions that arise about frequently changing restrictions and policies.

3. Informing the public about the vaccine roll out.

4. Providing educational resources for children whose schools were closed.

The BBC has regularly topped the TV ratings throughout the pandemic for news coverage, getting up to 18 million viewers for the Prime Minister‚’s statements, when other channels also broadcasting them were getting 2 million between them it shows the value and trust that is placed in the BBC by the British public.

However, the current funding and charter model is not fit for purpose in a digital, online, social media dominated media environment. The idea of charging people based on whether they watch broadcast TV or live TV content from a streaming service is filled with contradictions when millions are tuning into similar content on YouTube or watching live broadcasts by social media stars on Facebook or Twitter. It has even been described by the incoming BBC chairman ‘least worst’ option and regularly raises concerns of politicising the BBC.




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