In Brief

Will the BBC become a subscription service?

Culture secretary says she is ‘open-minded’ about the proposal

The government has suggested it would be open to the BBC becoming a subscription service as the popularity of streaming models soars.

Currently, explains The Times, anyone who watches live television has to pay the licence fee, even if they never watch the BBC. This raised £3.7bn for the BBC last year, but the Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee has warned that the rise of streaming among young people puts that revenue at risk.

Appearing before the committee, Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan was asked by Conservative MP Julian Knight: “The BBC moving to a subscription service is being floated as a potential policy for the next Conservative manifesto. What is your view?”

Morgan replied: “I would need to understand what that would do to their income. I think that the BBC is a very important institution, it’s an enormous part of our soft power around the world, but undoubtedly the sector is changing. We all know from streaming services and the way the younger generation consume services, it is going to change.”

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The minister added: “I am open-minded and I will listen to evidence on all sides.”

The Guardian said Morgan’s words will “delight Tory critics of the broadcaster”.

The committee said that the march of subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime has put the licence fee’s revenue in danger. The licence fee costs £154.50 a year, compared with between £72 and £144 for Netflix.

Morgan said: “What I haven’t seen is any evidence either way that says what a subscription-based service would do in terms of the revenue.”

However, as a BBC spokesman said, no change to the model is imminent. The spokesman said that the licence fee was the most popular funding system and was fixed for the next eight years “so any debate about future funding is a long way off”.

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