Speculation on BBC future fails to change public opinion over the licence fee

Criticisms of BBC spending and Government suggestions the Corporation could be part-funded by subscriptions in future have failed to change public attitudes towards BBC funding, with Britons split over the licence fee, according to a new ComRes poll commissioned by The Whitehouse Consultancy.

The poll found that 41 percent of Britons supported the licence fee system, with an equal number opposed to the current system. An identical poll conducted 12 months ago by ComRes for The Whitehouse Consultancy revealed that four in ten (40 percent) Britons supported the licence fee, with an equal number opposing it.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has suggested that the BBC could be jointly funded by a compulsory licence fee and a voluntary subscription system. Justice Secretary Michael Gove has also advocated decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee.

The poll also found little movement in Britons’ opinions that the licence fee could be scrapped in favour of advertising on the BBC. Fifty-two percent of respondents supported the suggestion, compared to 51 percent in 2014. There was a slight increase in the number of Britons unwilling to see the licence fee abolished and the BBC paid for through higher taxes (69 percent compared to 64 percent in 2014).

Helen Munro, Managing Director of The Whitehouse Consultancy, said:

“These figures show that the public continues to be open to alternatives to the licence fee as a means of funding the BBC. However, there is clear opposition to the BBC being funded through higher taxes.

“The lack of substantial change in Britons’ opinions over the last year suggests that discussions over the future of the BBC and its funding, along with the comments of Ministers, are yet to influence public opinion. Similarly, the BBC’s own marketing and investment hasn’t moved public opinion. With negotiations ongoing over the BBC Charter and its renewal, Ministers and the BBC will have to clearly articulate to the public how the institution will be funded in the future.”

Poll results


  Support Oppose Don’t know
Abolishing the licence fee and making the BBC fund itself, even if that means adverts during programmes, reducing the number of original programmes they can produce or scrapping their public service broadcasting duty 52%






The current system of a compulsory licence fee paid by individuals who watch live television 41%






Abolishing the licence fee and introducing a subscription fee paid only by those who want to access the BBC 36%






Abolishing the licence fee and funding the BBC through increased taxes 15%






Base: GB adults (n=2,035). Changes may not sum to zero due to rounding.

Methodology Note: ComRes interviewed 2,035 British adults online on 12th and 13th August 2015. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.