NEW ‘PRO-BREXIT’ ONLINE VIDEO SERVICE PLANNED: Christopher Williams (£ Telegraph 24/10) said that Ben Habib, a former Brexit party MEP and commercial property executive, was attempting to raise £4m of start-up capital for Unlocked, a new online video channel aimed at ‘muzzled majority’ news audiences not served by existing broadcasting services. Mr Williams reported that Unlocked would provide a platform for political views – such as support for Brexit – which were not getting the prominence they currently deserved. He added that former BBC producer Lesley Katon, who was now a partner in the PR firm Pagefield, had been lined up as chief executive of the new service. Mr Williams noted that Unlocked would not need to apply for a broadcast licence from Ofcom, and thus would not be bound by its impartiality rules, because it would operate online.
60% ‘WANT BBC LICENCE FEE SCRAPPED’ SAYS POLL: Charles Hymas (£ Telegraph 25/10) reported that a poll commissioned by Defund the BBC and conducted by Savanta ComRes among 2,274 adults had found that 59 per cent of respondents wanted the BBC licence fee to be scrapped, with only 32 per cent backing the status quo. He said that 43 per cent also did not believe that the corporation output reflected ‘British values’ and 32 per cent were unhappy about the way the licence fee money was spent. Mr Hymas, also noting that ‘leading Conservative MPs wanted a review of BBC funding, quoted former leader of the Conservative party Iain Duncan Smith:
‘Public opinion on the BBC is clearly moving and that means it’s time for a root-and-branch review on whether or not the public want a fully funded public broadcaster and, if so, what functions that broadcaster should fulfil.’
Mr Hymas added that the BBC’s licence fee arrangements did not come up for renewal until 2027 with the ending of the current charter, but that there was a mid-term review in 2022 ‘with the government understood the be urging director general Tim Davie to come up with proposals for an alternative model’. He said that other poll findings included that those over 55 were twice as likely as young people to think that the licence fee was spent unreasonably (46 percent-21 percent), and that 50 per cent of those surveyed felt that people who only watched other channels should not have to pay the licence fee. He quoted Rebecca Ryan of Defund the BBC:
‘This poll clearly demonstrates that the British public is overwhelmingly opposed to the Licence Fee in its current form. There are rightly serious concerns over the way that the licence fee is spent, particularly given the eye watering sums paid to certain BBC presenters. It is also extremely worrying that the BBC has alienated such huge swathes of British people who do not think it represents their values. Decriminalising the licence fee is just the first step to radical reform. The next move is to ensure the licence fee only covers BBC output.’
Harry Cole (Sun 25/10), also reporting the poll findings, said that it had shown that 2019 Labour voters and 2016 Remain voters were significantly more likely than their Conservative and Leave counterparts to believe that the BBC fairly reflected British values. He also reported that the BBC had claimed in response that surveys consistently showed that the licence fee was the public’s preferred way of funding the BBC and that the model was in place until at least 2027.
A Sun editorial at the end of its article (also 25/10) said:
‘A POLL revealed by The Sun today proves what we’ve suspected for a while — the BBC is in deep, deep trouble. Almost two in three Brits say the TV licence fee must be reformed, a third say the cash is spent “unreasonably’’ — and one in six say they never even watch the Beeb. It’s time Parliament listened to them. Decriminalising non-payment of the fee will be a start. But the Government should go further and revive its plan to fund the service with a subscription model. Media luvvies squeal at the thought: they think that scrapping the licence fee would kill the Beeb off. But they’re wrong. A subscription model — in which ordinary viewers beyond London would have more stake than ever before in what shows they watch — would give tired old Auntie a new lease of life. The BBC will always be a beloved British institution. But to stay relevant, it must start reflecting the REAL modern Britain.’
The full poll is here.
DAVIE ‘TO CLAMP DOWN ON BBC STARS ‘MOONLIGHTING’: Luke May (Mail online 25/10) claimed that, ‘according to one presenter’, BBC director general Tim Davie was planning, in a ‘clampdown on moonlighting by BBC stars’, the introduction of a public register of their additional earnings. Mr May said that Mr Davie would also reveal tougher measures on their use of social media as part of his drive to ensure that a perception of a lack of impartiality in their reporting of events was eradicated. The reporter added that one of the targets in terms of presenter pay was the News at Ten newsreader Huw Edwards, who was reputed to have been paid £400,000 over the past five years in additional earnings. Mr May also claimed that as part of the new social media measures, Mr Davie would be prepared to sack those who broke the new guidelines, as well as suspending offending Twitter accounts.