BBC boss Tim Davie ‘open-minded’ about demise of licence fee funding

Tim Davie (credit: RTS/Richard Kendal)

BBC chief Tim Davie has admitted he is “open minded” about new forms of funding for the public broadcaster, whose licence fee model is set to end in 2027.

The Strictly Come Dancing and Top Gear broadcaster relies on an annual payment of £159 ($200) from households with a TV, but the model is viewed by some as out of date in the age of streaming.

Earlier this year, UK culture secretary Nadine Dorries announced plans to freeze funding to the BBC and then abolish the licence fee altogether in four years time.

Shift of focus

Speaking to politicians at a House of Lords Committee session yesterday, Davie said he is “open minded” about the future of the annual charge, adding that the focus is not on the “funding mechanic” but ensuring the corporation’s content is “available to all” and retains its “values”.

LR: Top Gear’s Paddy McGuinness, Chris Harris, Freddie Flintoff

BBC chair Richard Sharp added that the BBC will face up to the “existential questions” around its future and added that “nothing had been ruled out” when he was asked about the potential of a ‘two-tier’ BBC.

It is a change of tack for the BBC, which has previously preferred to talk up the licence fee as a funding method rather than discuss alternatives.

However Davie, who led commercial arm BBC Studios for almost a decade before taking the top job at the BBC in 2020, has been more open than some of his predecessors about alternative ways to fund the organisation.

In his first speech as director general of the BBC two years ago, Davie pointed out that BBCS would be central to the domestic broadcaster’s future as questions of funding and value for money circled, something that seems only to be increasing since his arrival when those same questions were posed.

He has also previously spoken forcefully against a pure SVOD model, something that seems unlikely to be adopted given the model’s lack of flexibility, which is now forcing even its biggest proponent – Netflix – to turn to advertisements for support.

He has also talked up the “big opportunities” that lie in launching direct-to-consumer services such as BritBox in new areas.

Read Next