In Focus: The Case for Privatising the BBC

170 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2021

See all articles by Philip Booth

Philip Booth

City University London - Sir John Cass Business School

Ryan Bourne

Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA)

Tim Congdon

University of Buckingham

Stephen Davies

Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA)

Cento Veljanovski

Case Associates; Institute of Economic Affairs

Date Written: April 28, 2016

Abstract

In the past, the use of a compulsory levy on television sets (a licence fee) to finance the BBC could be justified given the problem of spectrum scarcity and the fact that television signals were a public good (i.e. there was effectively a zero marginal cost of an additional user receiving the signal and no effective mechanism of exclusion). Furthermore, the fact that television sets were bulky, and had no practical use other than watching television programmes, made the collection and enforcement of the licence fee practically viable. In recent years, these justifications for the licence fee have evaporated. It is technically straightforward to exclude non-payers from receiving television signals and spectrum scarcity is no longer a practical problem. Furthermore, there is no clear relationship between owning a television set and watching ‘television’ programmes. The BBC – and to a more limited extent other independent groups and economists – have tried, increasingly desperately, to find other justifications for retaining the licence fee. The state should uncouple itself from the BBC and remove compulsory sources of funding. Commercial and non-commercial news media can then compete together as they do in print and online media: for example, the Guardian is one of the most successful online journalism sources while being supported by a charitable trust.

Keywords: UK, Britain, BBC, entertainment, television, media, fiscal policy, government intervention, regulation

JEL Classification: L51, L82, L88, E62

Suggested Citation

Booth, Philip and Bourne, Ryan and Congdon, Tim and Davies, Stephen and Veljanovski, Cento, In Focus: The Case for Privatising the BBC (April 28, 2016). Institute of Economic Affairs Monographs, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3852733 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3852733

Philip Booth (Contact Author)

City University London - Sir John Cass Business School ( email )

106 Bunhill Row
London, EC1Y 8TZ
United Kingdom

Ryan Bourne

Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) ( email )

2 Lord North Street, Westminster
London, SW1P 3LB
United Kingdom

Tim Congdon

University of Buckingham ( email )

Hunter Street
Buckingham MK18 1EG
United Kingdom

Stephen Davies

Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) ( email )

2 Lord North Street, Westminster
London, SW1P 3LB
United Kingdom

Cento Veljanovski

Case Associates ( email )

Pavilion
96 Kensington High Street
London, W8 4SG
United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 73764418 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.casecon.com

Institute of Economic Affairs

2 Lord North Street, Westminster
London, SW1P 3LB
United Kingdom

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
37
Abstract Views
184
PlumX Metrics