New BBC boss Tim Davie reveals plan for two-tier licence fee with choice between cut-price ‘basics’ package or ‘premium’ service for top shows like Bodyguard and Normal People
- Shows such as Bodyguard, Normal People and Strictly could be made premium
- BC News, EastEnders and much of its sports coverage could stay on basic rate
- BBC executives look at new funding models ahead of end of its charter in 2027
A two-tier licence fee that allows viewers to chose to upgrade to ‘premium’ television could be introduced as part of plans by new BBC boss Tim Davie, reports suggest.
Hit shows such as Bodyguard, Normal People and Strictly Come Dancing could be among the series to be moved onto the premium rate.
Meanwhile, staple BBC shows such as EastEnders and Blue Peter, as well as BBC News, could remain on a cut-price ‘basics’ package, reports The Sun.
The basics package will be aimed at those who usually watch pay-monthly subscription services such as Netflix, the reports say.
It comes as Mr Davie, who took over as the BBC’s new director general last week, looks at a new funding model for the corporation.
A two-tier licence fee that allows viewers to chose to upgrade to ‘premium’ television could be introduced as part of plans by new BBC boss Tim Davie, reports suggest
Hit shows such as the Bodyguard, Normal People and Strictly Come Dancing could be among the series to be moved onto the premium rate
Bodyguard, featuring Richard Madden Keeley Hawes, could be one of the shows heading to premium
Government ministers and top BBC executives are looking at ways to replace the traditional licence fee.
The BBC’s current licence fee model is guaranteed until 2027 under a royal charter.
Which shows could go ‘premium’ and which shows could be included on the basics package?
Sports – including Wimbledon, football World Cup coverage and the Olympics
Children’s shows such as Blue Peter
Radio – including popular shows such as BBC Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 4
Strictly Come Dancing
Match of the Day
But speculation is growing that Mr Davie could opt to change the funding model earlier for a new long-term option, according to the The Guardian, who say Mr Davie could also look at a special income tax method.
Such a system is currently used in Sweden to fund all of its public service broadcasting.
People paid a maximum of £113 (1,300 SeK) 2019 for the service, compared to the £157-a-year for the BBC, while the tax is a sliding scale with those with less money paying less – unlike the BBC’s flat rate system.
The Swedish-style income tax model is one option, while Mr Davie’s predecessor Lord Hall has previously mentioned an option which would see the fee added to council tax bills.
But Mr Davie has dismissed any talk of a subscription service, like Netflix, to replace the licence fee, and could turn to the two-tier system as one option.
A source told The Sun: ‘This is all at a very early stage but the two-tier structure is being discussed at the higher echelons.
‘You would effectively have a cut-price version including the main aspects of telly and radio stations.
‘But there would be a gear-change with the next offer to the public, which could include the high-production dramas and possibly some sports.’
The new idea comes among growing concern by BBC executives that an upcoming report will suggest decriminalisation for non-payment of the licence fee.
It will mean those who fail to pay from 2020 are likely to face a civil penalty, rather than now, when they face a criminal sanction.
Shows such as BBC News, featuring Fiona Bruce, could stay on the BBC’s basic package
Irish drama television series Normal People, starring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal could go to premium
There are concerns this could cost the BBC up to £1billion-a-year in lost revenue.
The reports come as it was revealed that Mr Davie has held talks with Andrew Neil to try and convince him to return to the corporation.
On his second day in the role, Tim Davie held a Zoom call with Mr Neil, who left the BBC in March, and made him a number of formal offers, as reported by The Sunday Telegraph.
Mr Neil – famed for his forensic no-holds-barred interviews – is understood to have spent most of the pandemic in France after The Andrew Neil Show was taken off air.
Sources close to the director-general told the newspaper: ‘Tim Davie wants Andrew Neil back at the BBC because he is a b***** good broadcaster.
The reports come as it was revealed that Mr Davie has held talks with Andrew Neil to try and convince him to return to the corporation
‘There has always been a collective desire to have him in the fold because of his talent.’
It comes as Mr Davie is understood to be keen to shake off criticism that the BBC is too left-wing.
He is said to have told staff this week that if they want to be opinionated columnists or partisan campaigners on social media they ‘should not be working at the BBC’.
Mr Davie said the broadcaster needed to ‘urgently champion and recommit to impartiality’.
He insisted his drive was ‘about being free from political bias, guided by the pursuit of truth, not a particular agenda’.
His latest remarks – widely seen as a swipe at woke presenters mouthing off on Twitter – came after he ordered a u-turn on a ban on Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory at Last Night of the Proms.
The comments were in his first official speech in Cardiff on Thursday lunchtime and follow controversies over impartiality, including Newsnight host Emily Maitlis sparking a furore with a monologue on the Dominic Cummings lockdown row
The comments were in his first official speech in Cardiff on Thursday lunchtime and follow controversies over impartiality, including Newsnight host Emily Maitlis sparking a furore with a monologue on the Dominic Cummings lockdown row.
The BBC later said the episode ‘did not meet our standards of due impartiality’.
BBC Breakfast host Naga Munchetty was also rebuked last year after commenting on remarks made by US President Donald Trump.
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker is also known for tweeting political views and opinions on his social media.
Mr Davie said: ‘We urgently need to champion and recommit to impartiality. It is deliverable and it is essential.
‘If you work here, nothing should be more exciting than exploring different views, seeking evidence with curiosity and creatively presenting testimony. Making use of our own experiences but not driven by our personal agendas. I wonder if some people worry that impartiality could be a little dull.
‘To be clear, this is not about abandoning democratic values such as championing fair debate or an abhorrence of racism. But it is about being free from political bias, guided by the pursuit of truth, not a particular agenda.
‘If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.’
He warned there was ‘no room for complacency’ over the broadcaster’s future.
Mr Davie ordered a u-turn on a ban on Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory at Last Night of the Proms
The new director-general added that it was ‘still relevant in millions of people’s lives’.
But he insisted that ‘as we look to the future, there is no room for complacency. The truth is that for all our extraordinary efforts there is significant risk.
‘If current trends continue we will not feel indispensable enough to all our audience. We must evolve to protect what we cherish.
‘The evidence is unequivocal – the future of a universal BBC can no longer be taken for granted.’
He also said the broadcaster has spread itself ‘too thinly’ amid competition from streaming giants.
He suggested it is time to ‘stop’ making some shows and called for an end to ‘dangerous’ navel-gazing at the BBC.
Former Today programme editor slams ‘entitled’ young BBC staff who ‘expect to have their view of the world on air’ after new director-general said ‘bias has no place’ at the broadcaster
The former editor of the Today programme has slammed ‘entitled’ young BBC staff who ‘expect to have their view of the world on air’.
Sarah Sands suggested workers at the broadcaster, which she quit earlier this year, cannot understand right-wing views.
The journalist said impartiality is still key for the BBC, but ‘respect for the rules is weakening’ and it needs to try not to conform to a ‘cultural like-mindedness’.
It comes after the new director-general told staff if they want to be opinionated columnists or a campaigners online they ‘should not be working’ there.
Sarah Sands (pictured) suggested workers at the broadcaster, which she quit earlier this year, cannot understand right-wing views
Tim Davie, who took over this week, said the broadcaster needed to ‘urgently champion and recommit to impartiality’.
Ms Sands wrote in the FT: ‘The BBC is not just a broadcaster but also an attentive employer in the age of the employee activist.
‘The result is a sense of entitlement among younger employees: they expect to have their view of the world on air.
‘In its drive to reflect a new world, the BBC sometimes overlooks an older one. It can treat social conservatism with polite incomprehension.’
Mr Davie insisted his drive was ‘about being free from political bias, guided by the pursuit of truth, not a particular agenda’.