The nature of technology means that the license fee - unless the basis for its collection changes - is a diminishing return as people switch to self-programmed TV and media consumption. In effect, only big live events would make the cut and these will be on at the local pub, on big screens in the town square and probably in new venues like village halls or community centres.
And the public rather understands this and, increasingly supports scrapping the fee:
Half (51 per cent) of the UK want the BBC licence fee scrapped and the corporation to fund itself, a study of 2,049 Brits by ComRes has found.
Of course the BBC is having some sort of apoplexy at the temerity of the public and refers to its own (unpublished) research on the matter. Research that, naturally, shows a majority supporting the license fee. What we need to appreciate here is that the BBC start by establishing that the licence fee is value-for-money (which it probably is) and then move to argue that this justifies its continuation. I find that, quite the contrary, the value-for-money defence undermines the rationale for a licence fee - if the fee is such good value then people will surely be happy to pay it voluntarily?
I am also uncertain as to the sense or purpose in having a state broadcaster. In the infancy of TV this rather made sense as did getting the income from licensing the hardware - after all it was only in the 1970s when near universal ownership of TVs was reached. Now, in a world of multiple, competing broadcasters the case for a state system collapses as does the compulsory approach to funding. If government wishes to use part of available output for its messages then, rather than owning the biggest chunk of broadcasting, it should purchase such coverage on the market.
And the way to guarantee the independence of the BBC - something we treasure - could be to take away the government's control of the Corporation's financing. So long as the funding for the BBC is via a state mandated poll tax then it remains a state broadcaster. I see no reason why the majority of people, through one route or another, wouldn't carry on subscribing to the BBC's coverage on a voluntary basis. And we would maybe see a reduction in the Corporation's indulgence in casual financial waste such as sending nearly 400 people to Brazil for the World Cup Finals and similar numbers to cover the US elections and Glastonbury festival.
None of the arguments here are about attacking the BBC. Rather, such an approach would make the BBC a more potent force since it would lose it's 'part of the state' tag and get a defence against being simply dismissed as 'establishment'. The Corporation might be smaller and some of its programming may move to orthodox advertising-based funding models but I believe it would be strengthened by such independence not weakened.