Nearly 200,000 Brits have signed a petition to save the BBC, in response to the government’s plans to introduce a subscription service instead of the TV licence fee.
Earlier this week, a senior government aide were reported by the Sunday Times as saying the British Broadcasting Corporation would have to sell some of its radio stations and TV channels if the licence fee was scrapped.
Instead, he said: “We are not bluffing on the licence fee. It has to be a subscription model.”
This would mean viewers who intended to continue watching BBC’s famous dramas, panel shows, comedies and soaps would have to subscribe to the service, much like they would Netflix.
However, this suggestion has caused a raucous reaction among Brits, many of whom believe the BBC is a national institution. As a result, a 38 Degrees Petition has been launched to help save the corporation.
As part of the petition, it says: “Our BBC is a world-leading public service. The way that it is funded means that it’s independent of government and corporate pressure. At a time when fake news can spread like wildfire and when so much is at stake, this is a dangerous attack on democracy.”
It went on to stated: “We need to protect the BBC from this political attack … To stop it, it’s going to take a huge amount of public pressure.”
So far, 199,265 people have signed the petition, including writer Philip Pullman.
The author of His Dark Materials, which was turned into a BBC series last year, tweeted to his 156,300 followers to do the same. His message, confirming his support of saving the BBC, has been re-tweeted 2,700 times, received 6,500 likes, and had 2,500 comments, showing just how much this issue has touched a nerve with the public.
Brits who want to watch the BBC currently have to pay for their TV licence, which will rise by £3 to £157.50 a year from April 2020.
However, many MPs believe this process is out-dated and needs to be abolished, particularly as there are a lot of people who are unable to afford this charge and still want to enjoy watching or listening to their favourite channel.
Last year, the BBC announced it was going to scrap free TV licences for those over the age of 75, which means up to 3.7 million pensioners will also have to start paying the fee.
This comes after free licences for the over-75s were introduced in 2015; however, after the shake-up, only low-income households with one person in receipt of pension credit benefits will not have to pay for the BBC.
As a result, the corporation will save nearly £500 million from its 2021/22 budget. BBC chairman Sir David Clementi was reported by BBC News as saying it had been a “very difficult decision” to make, but this was the “fairest and best outcome”.
Despite this, Prime Minister at the time Theresa May stated she was “very disappointed” with the conclusion, with a spokesperson for the government saying it wanted the organisation to “support older people”.
Under the alterations, those over the age of 75 will have to start paying for their licence in June 2020. TV Licensing revealed it would get in touch with those affected to explain the changes and how the 1.5 million households who would still be eligible for a free TV licence can apply for it.
“TV Licensing will operate a self-verification system where individuals simply need to demonstrate their receipt of Pension Credit in order to qualify,” it stated.
However, many older people are likely to struggle with the application process, which is why the company is offering face-to-face assistance through an outreach programme, as well as a free telephone information line.
They will also be launching a Pay as you Go service, intended specifically for those over 75 who used to receive free licences, which would enable them to spread the charge over the year in fortnightly or monthly instalments.
While there is clearly a backlash to the government’s proposals to establish a subscription service to replace TV licence fees, there is also a lack of support for having advertisements on the channel.
A petition to scrap the TV licence in favour of government grants and paid advertising has only received 3,106 signatures.
It states: “The UK television licence is no longer a viable or fair means of funding UK programming… By charging a licence fee, we further attack the poorest in society, hindering their ability to have important access to news, and other media platforms.”
While a subscription model is unpopular among British viewers, it seems so too is having advertising on the world-famous network.
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