Talk of the BBC ditching the licence fee that keeps it funded isn't new. But now that the UK's Culture, Media and Sport Committee has weighed in saying it doesn't see "a long-term future" for the licence fee, the end may be nigh.
Currently UK residents with a connected TV or iPlayer accessible device are required, by law, to pay the yearly licence fee of £145.50. That equated to a total income of £3.7 billion in 2013-2104 – a huge chunk to lose then.
So how will the Beeb manage to keep making its high quality programming that's loved worldwide? There are a few options available to it that could help keep its head above water.
The most obvious way to pay for the BBC is advertising. This would leave the broadcaster in the same boat as its competitors like ITV and Channel 4 who have been working with this system for years. Whether that will hinder programming quality on the BBC is debatable.
What's clear is that the BBC charm of being an advert-free zone will be gone which may affect how it's viewed.
Subscriptions for abroad
The BBC currently ships a lot of its content abroad to make more money. Top Gear is one of the most popular programs which nets the Beeb huge chunks of its annual profit that totalled just over £5 billion in 2013-2014.
Charging viewers abroad more to watch its original content could be a way to make enough money to maintain its quality standards and avoid advertising. Perhaps it could advertise abroad only, leaving UK residents to continue enjoying an ad-free BBC.
Paid TV in the UK
The BBC may decide to go the way of many services like HBO and Netflix which offer content at a subscription fee.
A subscription fee wouldn’t be a whole lot different to paying a licence fee, only it would be in a different guise. While the fee would no longer be required by UK residents it could remain the same amount which would be more than fair for the amount of content on offer.
This option may even end up allowing the BBC to make even more money as it can charge locally and abroad for its offerings.
BBC iPlayer subscription only
The online medium for accessing BBC content could be charged for. This would allow the broadcast side, on TV, to remain the same without adverts. It would simply mean anyone wishing to use the catch-up service of the BBC would have to pay.
BBC iPlayer also allows people to watch live shows on their tablets and phones. Charging for this would be a smart move as many people probably use this option when sharing a TV in the same house.
BBC originals paid downloads
The BBC produces a lot of its own content in the form of documentaries, reality TV and shows like Top Gear and Doctor Who. It could start charging on a per-show basis.
This could work like iTunes which charges for each song a person downloads. This would mean people can download, keep and own BBC content. That way they could watch it offline whenever they want.
The BBC iPlayer allows for downloads where items can be kept on the device for a limited time. Perhaps by charging, that limit would be gone as people effectively own the content.
Charge more for Top Gear, Doctor Who and Planet Earth
Top Gear, Doctor Who and Planet Earth are the BBC's biggest exports. By charging more for them alone it would probably make enough to keep going with people asking in years to come: "What licence fee?"
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