On the one hand, many licence fee payers are outraged over the hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds paid to the ‘talent’. On the other, if it stops paying such amounts, many of its stars may go to private firms who pay even more, to be followed by a chunk of the viewers. Outrage and lower ratings both undermine the case for the licence fee.
But the BBC is important to the UK. In countries ruled by tyrannical regimes, it is often seen as the best way to find out what is actually going on. That’s the sort of ‘soft power’ which makes people around the world like, even love, Britain. If the Beeb is diminished, we will regret it and not just because we’re forced to watch adverts or to pay a Netflix-like subscription.
Perhaps a solution would be for the BBC to embrace its global role to the point where international revenue is capable of supporting its UK operations. Free TV, no adverts and paid for by foreigners? It’s enough to make even the most xenophobic Brit love those foreigners right back.