This news might not seem like a big deal to those who can opt into the BBC’s content via existing subscription services. However, in the United Kingdom, the BBC is literally a tax that everyone who owns a television must pay.
It’s called the TV license, and if the BBC is forced to become an optional subscription service like the British government is threatening, it could be “game over” for the broadcaster.
To understand what the BBC might lose, here are some key numbers:
- A TV license cost $195.90 (£150.50) in 2018. In 2020 it was $201 (£154.50).
- Income from TV license fees was just under $5 billion (£3.83 billion) in 2017-2018.
- The BBC’s total income in the same time was $6.5 billion (£5 billion).
What this means is that the BBC is able to operate at the scale it does globally because they’re guaranteed almost $5 billion yearly from a forced license in the UK.
This income is regardless of the content they produce, or how many viewers it attains. The sad irony is that despite the ever-growing nature of the BBC, much of the money isn’t going directly into content. Instead, executives are paying themselves huge pay raises and bonuses regularly.
The crazy-haired Boris Johnson, England’s newly elected Prime Minister, has put the bloated broadcaster squarely in his sights. A source told the Guardian, “They should have a few TV stations, a couple of radio stations and massively curtailed online presence and put more money and effort into the World Service which is part of its core job. The PM (Prime Minister) is firmly of the view that there needs to be serious reform. He is really strident on this.”
If the government does stop the BBC’s TV license, expect massive repercussions not only in the United Kingdom, but globally. The BBC might just be the first major broadcaster to fall in the Streaming Wars.