What was that Boris? Carve up the licence fee?

Last of the blog posts from last night’s Charles Wheeler award speeches, but just to share with you a question from London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to BBC director-general, Mark Thompson. Over to you, Boris:

“I really wish I hadn’t decided to ask this question.

“I love the BBC and I’m a big beneficiary from the BBC, but I have to say listening to your [Thompson’s] critique, I thought you were showing some sort of guilt about what the BBC website is doing to other commercially operated websites, you know, run by newspapers and you were trying to say the BBC might paddle it, that guilt, by sharing resources online (…) I understand it would be a very good way forward.

“I don’t quite know how it’s going to work. I wonder if the simple solution might well be to carve up the licence fee and give a slice of it to the Sun, some to the Daily Mail…”

Thompson answered, to paraphrase, that it probably wouldn’t work very well.

A little more fully: there are countries where they’ve tried that, said Thompson. And the problem is, he said, that if you’re not careful, the ‘subsidy you need’ gets a bit bigger every year; and secondly, as a public service broadcaster one would ‘begin losing the critical mass’ in terms of the organisation’s culture, calibre of the output and public accountability.

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