Despite challenges to its legitimacy, the licence fee still provides two thirds of all EBU public service media (PSM) income and remains the bedrock of PSM funding across the continent.
In a new report from the EBU’s Media Intelligence Service (MIS), the licence fee is shown to be the most stable, transparent and adaptable way to fund PSM.
It also provides good value for money as it remains cheaper than most European pay TV subscriptions with the average licence costing EUR 137 per year. Discounting the impact of inflation, the licence fee has only increased 1.5% over the last six years (2010-2015) in the EBU area, and has actually decreased by 3.9% across EU countries.
In recent years, the licence fee has been adapted in several countries to reflect new ways of consuming television and radio. Since September 2016, the licence fee in the UK covers not just live TV but also catch-up consumption through the BBC iPlayer.
Italy has also reformed its licence fee to tackle its 31% evasion rate. Italian households now pay their licence fee with their gas and electricity bills, although the fee is still based on the ownership of a TV set and only computers fitted with a tuner are liable for payments.
The level of the licence fee is closely correlated with PSM’s TV and radio audience performance. The report shows that in countries with a higher fee, the public broadcaster tends to achieve a higher market share. In addition, licence fee evasion rates tend to be lower in countries where PSM perform better, suggesting that public acceptance of the fee is linked to public support for the broadcaster.
Head of MIS Roberto Suárez Candel said: “The licence fee establishes a direct link between broadcasters and the public, making them more accountable to their audience. PSM should embrace this relationship, ensuring that they actively communicate the value citizens get from paying their licence fee: the content provided by PSM, its reach, its impact and its overall contribution to society.”
EBU Members can download the report here.