The BBC was bragging this week about getting 39.7 million hits to its website following England’s cricket World Cup success. Maybe the Beeb should be congratulated for being a clear go-to source.
On the other hand, this also helps justify the case for the BBC to finance its online service through advertising and other commercial processes – like every other website in the country.
There are some who say the British Broadcasting Corporation should stick to broadcasting and should not be producing online services at all. That argument aside, the success of the service should surely prompt policymakers to take a hard look at the opportunities it throws up. Surely 40 million eyeballs (together with 13.4m page views for the tennis final and 2.5m for the Grand Prix) would be a tempting proposition to advertisers.
Forcing the BBC to make its website pay for itself would certainly help to even up a playing field which is tilted heavily in its favour. The BBC is handed millions from households via a quasi tax to enable it to build a service that competitors struggle to match and makes a nonsense of its regular bleating about budget constraints.
To that extent, the BBC is making the case for raising income from other means. It already uses the ‘market forces’ argument to justify high salaries for its presenters and is about to launch a rival to Netflix. The same market principles should be used to reduce its reliance on a compulsory licence fee. Commercialising its website would be a start. It would also enable it to halt controversial cuts. While it lavishes millions in salaries on its top presenters, thousands of pensioners face having to pay for their TV licence because the corporation claims it can no longer afford the benefit.
Using BBC figures SNP MP Brendan O’Hara says there are 356,000 over-75 TV licences in force in Scotland, and just under 88,000 people aged over 75 on pension credit, meaning some 268,000 households could lose out on £154.50 a year if the cut goes ahead, amounting to £41.4m being taken from pensioners.
It’s time the Department for Media, Culture and Sport took another look at the way the BBC is financed to ensure these imbalances are corrected.