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Give us ‘fair share’ of TV license fee, says Keep It Country boss

Phil Mack with Big Tom

A fair share of the television license fee should be distributed to independent TV providers as well as the BBC, says the founder and CEO of satellite and Freeview channel, Keep it Country TV. 

Philip McLaughlin, aka Phil Mack, the CEO of Keep it Country, the only European television channel solely dedicated to country music, called on the BBC to provide his station with its “share” of the license fee, issuing an invoice and a proposal for a “payment plan” to the national broadcaster. 

Calculated using their own viewing figures, the total revenue the fee usually generates – which was over £3 billion for 2017-2018 – as well as exceptions including the over-75s relief and the cost of collection, the channel have signalled their intention to collect £1,328,350.00 from the BBC. 

Keep It Country, an independent television channel which broadcasts on Sky 376, Freesat 516 and National Freeview 87, is entirely self-funded and receives no outside funding, the channel claims. 

Using the official Broadcasters Audience Research Board data, Keep It Country claim their share of UK television viewership for 2018 was 0.05 per cent.

“So to this end, on behalf of the viewing public and all other independent channels, our CEO is issuing an invoice to the BBC for our share of the TV licence revenue, £1,328,350.00,” Keep It Country said. 

Phil Mack

The BBC refused to comment on the Keep it Country campaign after being contacted. A spokesperson simply said: “The funding of the BBC is something set in statute by the Government (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) under the terms of the BBC Charter.”

Keep It Country argues that viewers who tune in to their channel are forced to pay a fee toward the BBC. “We feel that independent channels should also be entitled to receive some of this funding,” they said.

“When the fee was changed from a ‘service charge’ to a ‘tax’ in 2006, a situation was created where even viewers who never watch BBC TV or listen to BBC radio were forced to pay for their chosen TV-radio reception while, at the same time, funding a service they never used,” McLaughlin said. 

“Given that the TV Licensing Authority is a wholly owned subsidiary of the BBC, we believe that the current method of distributing the license fee revenue is both out-dated and grossly unfair.” 

McLaughlin added that the BBC should be subject to Monopolies, Mergers and Competition rules – “just as any other ‘independent’ body would be” – and argued that, since the BBC’s share of viewership is now down to less than 30 per cent, the distribution of the license fee revenue “must be adjusted accordingly”.   

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“TV today is vastly different to when the license was first introduced in 1922 and that fact that the BBC now enjoys income of over 2 billion a year from ‘commercial and other sources’ removes any suggestion that they cannot attract income from elsewhere,” he said. 

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