Licence fee change could spell the end for CBBC and CBeebies - BBC Chairman

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CBeebies

BBC Chairman Sir David Clementi will warn that replacing the licence fee with a subscription service could potentially spell the end for CBeebies and CBBC and wipe out its regional coverage.

Sir David Clementi will use a speech in Salford today to say that the BBC would be forced to make substantial cuts and retreat from the regions if it had to put its content behind a paywall and compete on a commercial basis.

This would likely include the end of CBeebies and CBBC, which are both based at MediaCityUK, he will argue.

“A subscription service would be unlikely to have much regional presence,” he will say. “It would be very unlikely to continue the level of properly curated programmes for children, or indeed the brilliant Bitesize education services that have helped so many teenagers.

“It would not have the same commitment to investing in home-grown ideas and talent, to the benefit of our whole creative sector. It’s clear that a discussion of what sort of BBC we want must run in parallel with the debate about its funding, since the two are inextricably linked.”

The government is already consulting on whether to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee, while hinting that the licence fee model itself could be abolished when the BBC’s agreement with the government runs out at the end of 2027. 

Leading Conservative politicians have proposed turning the BBC into a subscription service, highlighting the reach of Netflix, which has more than 10 million customers in the UK. 

Clementi, who is in charge of appointing the next director general, is also expected to emphasise that the government would have to pick up the £250m annual cost of funding the BBC World Service if it became a subscription product.

He will also suggest that undermining the BBC would damage Britain itself.

“No other brand resonates around the world like the BBC. No other national asset has the potential to serve Britain so powerfully – uniting us as one nation at home, and representing global Britain abroad. The BBC is a great national asset; a diminished BBC is a weakened United Kingdom.”

BBC Director General Lord Hall has said he wants “at least two-thirds” of the Corporation to be based outside of London by 2027. Currently, half the BBC is based outside of the capital, with departments including Sport, 5 Live and Children’s having re-located to MediaCityUK in Salford in 2011.