TaxPayers' Alliance calls for sale of Channel 4 and scrapping of BBC licence fee
The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has called for the sale of Channel 4 and the scrapping of the BBC licence fee ahead of the Budget this week.
The campaign group has also proposed that most of the BBC should be sold off and the corporation cut down to one television channel, radio station and online service.
These would be funded by a small government grant and only show current affairs and cultural programming deemed to be “in the public interest”, according to the group’s plan.
The Government has consulted on plans to privatise Channel 4, which could be sold off to a private buyer.
At present the channel is owned by the Government and receives funding from advertising, not from the taxpayer.
The TPA has claimed it “seems unnecessary” for two broadcasters to be publicly owned, saying neither Channel 4 nor the BBC fit into the 21st century broadcasting market in their current forms.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TPA, said: “In the age of streaming, it’s ridiculous that we have two publicly-owned broadcasters.
“The Chancellor should use the upcoming budget to unshackle these media giants from the taxpayer and let them stand on their own two feet.
“That will benefit not just the public and taxpayers, but the broadcasters themselves.”
In a research paper, the group called for Channel 4 to be floated on the stock market, saying it would “end the need for taxpayers to act as the final guarantor for the corporation” and would “ensure a broader range of potential owners than a direct sale to another company”.
The alliance claims that making drastic changes to both the BBC and Channel 4 would “provide billions in revenues, which can be used to cut taxes and enable them to compete more effectively against streaming services while maintaining public service output”.
The paper said the sale of BBC shares for £2 billion would allow the Government to increase the standard tax-free personal allowance by £300, adding this is “more than enough to cover the subscription fees for Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Netflix”.
The TPA launched a campaign to scrap the licence fee – Axe The Tax – in January 2020.
The BBC faces a mid-term review of its charter next year, with the licence fee model guaranteed until 2027.
The system has come under fire over the abolition of free TV licences for all over-75s. Only those who receive pension credit do not have to pay the annual sum now.
A TV Licence costs £159 a year.
A statement from the BBC said: “The BBC has a Royal Charter in place for a number of years and which sets out the scale and scope of its activities.”
Research commissioned by the channel last month by accountancy firm EY suggested privatisation could result in around £2 billion being lost in the creative sector.
A Channel 4 spokesman said: “Channel 4 does not cost the taxpayer a penny. Commercially funded since launch, we have invested £12 billion in the UK’s creative industries, making programmes that entertain, challenge and engage for every platform.
“Over 20 million people watched the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games across Channel 4’s channels and digital services, All 4 viewing has exceeded one billion views this year alone and partnerships with companies including Tik Tok and Snap ensure that our audiences can connect with Channel 4 wherever they are watching our content.”