The Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, has suggested that the BBC licence fee might one day be lumped in with general taxation such as the council tax or via a levy on electricity bills because more people are avoiding paying it by watching TV online.
The Daily Mail says that this would cause concerns that the BBC’s independence might be compromised if it was to be funded through general taxation. I think that on the planet on which the Daily Mail is based, the BBC isn’t really an extension of the British government’s propaganda machine, full of left wing extremists.
The BBC licence fee might not be called a tax but that’s effectively what it is. If you want to watch a TV you have to pay the licence fee, in much the same way that if you want to drive a car you have to pay the road fund licence (aka car tax). They might not be called taxes but that’s what they are. Would being funded out of general taxation make the BBC any more or less “independent” than the BBC licence tax?
I actually quite like the idea of funding the BBC through council tax, assuming the council tax was changed into a local income tax based on ability to pay rather than the estimated average value of the houses on your street in the 90′s. It means the Scots and Welsh can pay for their Welsh and Gaelic channels themselves instead of the English having to foot the bill. The BBC Asian Network can be funded through some targeted taxation in areas that have large Asian populations. BBC Alba costs the taxpayer £14m a year – £10m from the Scottish government (subsidised by the English taxpayer) and 4m from BBC Scotland (funded mostly by the English taxpayer) – but only 1% of Scots speak Gaelic and only about 250,000 of the 60m people that live in the UK watch the channel.