Between the Lines: BBC has to prove its worth

The BBC appears to have won a stay of execution on the question of its funding. The licence fee will remain for the next ten years at least, the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, pledged this week (page 1).

But the fact that the government will conduct a review of alternative methods of funding is a clear indication that some form of advertising or subscription could be a reality at the 2016 renewal date.

In truth, there could be no worse time than now to try to tinker with the BBC's funding formula - there are so many imponderables to consider. For a start, there is no telling how the switchover to digital will affect perceptions of the BBC by 2012. Meanwhile, the implications of PVR technology - and more of it is heading our way this year - are only now beginning to dawn (though almost certainly not on many of those advertisers baying for access to the BBC's airtime).

The BBC's own performance, under its new Building Public Value manifesto, could also see some significant shifts in public opinion and endorsement if the promised modernisation and return to core values kick in.

Jowell has taken the only viable route to ensuring a stable BBC for the next decade. But she has also left it in no doubt that it has much to prove over the next ten years if it is to have an assured longer-term future in its current form.


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