THE BBC TV licence fee has a “limited shelf life” according to the Digital, Culture Media and Sport select committee (DCMS) chairman.

But MPs have concluded Britain may be stuck with the licence fee until 2038.

The UK Government’s pledge to supply full-fibre broadband to every home by 2025 was downgraded to 85 per cent in November and without it there is no viable alternative to the licence fee, MPs concluded.

A subscription-based alternative would require all households to be online before the next BBC Charter for 2028-2038, which is unlikely according to the DCMS.


Committee chairman, Julian Knight, said: "It's clear that the BBC TV licence fee has a limited shelf life in a digital media landscape. However, the Government has missed the boat to reform it.

"Instead of coming up with a workable alternative, it has sealed its own fate through a failure to develop a broadband infrastructure that would allow serious consideration of other means to fund the BBC.”

South Wales Argus: BBC iPlayer. (PA)BBC iPlayer. (PA)

According to Ofcom, around 190,000 homes do not have access to a “decent” broadband service.

The DCMS committee’s report into the future of BBC funding said: "whilst the majority of people in the UK theoretically have access to a broadband connection which would enable them to access online TV services, there are still a significant number of households which do not".

A BBC spokesperson said: "We welcome this thorough and detailed report.

“It is an endorsement of the crucial role played by Public Service Broadcasters and the BBC as well as a clear call to build a strong future.

"We welcome the conclusion that the licence fee is the best way of funding a universal BBC."

They added: “We’re also pleased to see the committee call for updated legislation to ensure the BBC is prominent on digital platforms so audiences can easily find public service programmes and agree that changes should be made to the BBC’s regulation to ensure we can respond quickly to audience expectations online.”

Licence fee evasion

The report also criticised the Government’s decision to shelve plans for decriminalisation of license fee evasion saying that the confusing message could encourage evasion.

Julian Knight MP, said: “We want the BBC to address real concerns about licence fee evasion – we’ve heard that current rates are significantly higher than the figures it has published to date.

“When we asked for this information we were pointed to published annual reports that were nowhere near as detailed as what appears to have been sent to Lord Botham about the over-75s. We are left asking whether there is something to hide.

“This matters because there is a real risk that the BBC licence fee funding model could become unsustainable as a result of evasion.”

South Wales Argus: BBC. (PA)BBC. (PA)

The BBC said the evasion rate has remained steady for a number of years, with no evidence that it is increasing.

A BBC spokesman said: “The overwhelming majority of people in the UK are correctly licensed.

“A small minority evade and this figure has remained broadly steady over the past five years.

“The over-75s are entirely separate. We are giving people time to transition to the new system and it is misleading to link these two issues.”