The BBC has suffered another blow to its credibility thanks to a poll that has found only 19% of the public is opposed to scrapping the £158 licence fee, with a majority (56%) actively in favour.
The 1,700-strong poll conducted by Redfield and Wilton calls into question the sustainability of the licence fee model for a service that compares less and less favourably with well-established commercial television networks such as Sky and ITV and digital rivals like Netflix.
At the heart of the BBC’s battle is impartiality, but the Redfield and Wilton poll finds perceptions of BBC bias are as bad as ever. Exactly a third of those polled agreed with the statement: “The BBC is not impartial and balanced, and there is a need for another news channel to offer a different perspective.”
Could that news channel be “right-leaning” GB News that is soon to go live? 25-year veteran of presenting BBC politics, Andrew Neil has been making an impressive pitch for GB News this weekend, saying, with an obvious nod to his former employer, that the UK media is “too metropolitan, too southern and too middle-class”.
A BBC spokesperson defended the public broadcaster, saying: “Impartiality is the cornerstone of the BBC and polling routinely shows we are by far the most trusted provider of news in the UK. The licence fee continues to ensure the BBC is an independent, universal broadcaster, committed to serving all audiences and is the agreed method of funding until at least 2027.”
As the poll shows, this statement will ring hollow with many viewers. Unsurprisingly, conservative voices jumped on the findings, urging reform.
Julian Knight, chair of the Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee said: “This poll shows what an uphill battle [director-general, Tim Davie] has. It’s clear that many licence fee payers feel the BBC is out of touch with their lives.”
Knight was joined by Alun Cairns, a former Welsh Secretary: “I have been concerned that the BBC has been losing the confidence of the public for some time and this survey seems to confirm it. There is the need for a cultural change and to represent and stand up for British interests.”
MP for Shipley, Philip Davies echoed Neil’s comments and said the BBC needs urgent reform: “This poll shows that the days of the licence fee are numbered, and the sooner the BBC accepts that and embraces that the better for everyone. The BBC have ruined their reputation for impartiality and are completely out of step and out of touch with huge swathes of the country.
“They have retreated into a metropolitan, London-centric, left-wing, politically correct, virtue signalling, woke bubble and the public have clearly had enough.”
The hugely successful Defund the BBC campaign said the poll vindicated its push for members of the public to stop paying the licence fee and risk massive fines: “These figures show that the government’s live TV tax no longer has public support. The BBC does not meet its obligations to represent those who are forced to pay for it or to deliver impartial news coverage and programming.
“Our supporters want the BBC stand on its own two feet financially and seek out a global paying audience.”
The survey comes on the back of a tough week for the BBC. On Wednesday, the director-general announced £400 million in cuts to help meet the shortfall in funding stemming from unpaid licence fees and spiralling disinterest in BBC programming.
The next day, the broadcaster was heavily mocked for suggesting licence fee payers should be forking out almost three times as much as they are currently.