The BBC is one of the nation's most treasured institutions and continues to command a central role in the lives of many people in the UK and overseas. In 2017/18, 92 per cent of the UK adult population used BBC services at least once a week, and the BBC reached a record weekly global audience of 376 million people around the world. Blue Planet II was the UK’s most watched TV programme of 2017, with more than 14 million people tuning in to episode one. In fact, BBC programmes made up seven of the top 10 most-watched TV shows. Blue Planet II also led to widespread change in the public awareness of plastic waste.
The licence fee aims to ensure that the BBC can continue to provide high quality, distinctive content for all audiences. I appreciate it is not the answer you were hoping for, but the Government is committed to maintaining the current funding model for the BBC during this Charter period, which runs until the end of 2027. While no system of funding meets all the criteria of an ideal funding system, the current licence fee system provides the BBC with a sustainable core income paid by all households who watch or receive television, and it commands wider public support than any alternative model. As such, I support retaining this system.
A TV licence is required to watch BBC iPlayer. This is part of ensuring the BBC can adapt to a changing media landscape. The BBC works on the basis that all who watch it should pay for it. Allowing people to watch its many popular programmes for free just after they are broadcast was never the intention of the licence fee, which was originally introduced before video-on-demand existed.
The BBC’s 2017/18 licence fee income was £3.8 billion, so it is essential that it is spent wisely. To help ensure this, the National Audit Office has become the BBC’s financial auditor and also scrutinises the BBC’s value for money record. The BBC Board is also required to ensure that the BBC is transparent and efficient in its spending.