License-paying public must be ‘heard and seen’ in consultation – BBC boss

Tim Davie, Director General of the BBC

The forthcoming consultation on the BBC’s future funding should ensure that license-paying audiences are “heard and seen” and set out a “clear set of principles” for the broadcaster, its chief executive has said.

Tim Davie told the Lords Communications and Digital Committee that the BBC would be presenting proposals in the coming weeks setting out the “principles and consultations” which it said should be at the heart of the discussion.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said last week that a review of the BBC’s funding model should begin before the Commons summer recess.

Cabinet Meeting
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries (Aaron Chown/PA)

It comes after the minister announced earlier this year that the company’s licensing fees would be frozen for the next two years, confirming she wanted to find a new funding model before the current deal expires in 2027. .

Appearing before the Lords Committee as part of its inquiry into future funding for the BBC, Mr Davie was asked what set of principles any potential future model should be based on.

He said: “One is the principles… We think we need a clear set of principles. The second is consultation because the people who should decide what happens to the BBC will obviously be elected officials, but we need to ensure that the licensee payer and the public are heard and seen.

“So we are going to make proposals in the coming weeks – in terms of principles and consultation.

“Because I just think you need to know, ‘What are the things we need to look at when we’re looking at different options?’ We are fixing them now.

Mr Davie told the committee that the consultation also needed to consider whether a new funding model would benefit Britain’s creative industries “economically, socially”.

He added: “This is an incredibly important sector. Does it stimulate growth? One of the things that I think is sometimes lacking in the debate is proper analysis of the economic and societal benefits of what we have built in this country. It’s so precious.

BBC license fees
BBC (Nicholas.T.Ansell/PA)

Mr Davie highlighted the role BBC journalists play in countries with reduced press freedom, such as Russia and China.

He added: “Is this fair for unlicensed payers? Is it a fair system? And no system is perfect. But is it as fair as possible? Does it offer great value? Is this a good deal?

“So we have a few other things to think about. It was not a finished list. We will think about it. »

Asked about the viability of moving to a hybrid system in which some BBC services were behind a paywall, Mr Davie warned that “any transition has to be incredibly well planned”.

He added: “The unintended consequences here could be very high if we get it wrong. Like I said, I think the stakes are incredibly high to make those good choices. And I’m saying whatever model evolves, you’re going to have to make a very significant transition. »

Mr Davie was joined by BBC Chairman Richard Sharp who outlined the role of the BBC Board in the upcoming discussions.

He said: “The BBC has a duty to lead this, but what the BBC needs to do is be humble enough and recognize that the decision is up to Parliament, because Parliament as a whole represents the people.

“We are going to be sophisticated enough to conduct an objective assessment that will be collaborative and involve meaningful consultation.”

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