Literally if they even made it a tax, it’d be better, because then we wouldn’t be criminalizing hundreds of thousands of (mostly vulnerable) people, because as Skalpadda points out, most of them wouldn’t have to pay, or would have it automatically taken in PAYE or the like. It could also then be progressive, rather than a huge imposition on poorer people, and absolutely nothing to wealthier ones.
But BBC management for most of two decades now has lobbying incredibly hard to keep a “worst of all worlds” situation, where they’re obviously not truly independent, as they rely on criminal sanctions (which are not available to any other business) and the licence fee is totally determined by the government (as it literally must be, given the criminal sanctions) and is flat and applied to all sorts of inappropriate people, and they constantly talk to the government, get threatened by the government, and so on. It’s incredibly shit and not okay at all.
Honestly? I’d be totally fine with that if it meant a company that claims to be essentially a private company/NGO, and independent from the government, would no longer be allowed to criminalize people like it was the government. For me it’s a hard red line. It’s unacceptable in 2020. It wasn’t really acceptable in 1990. They’ve blown staggering amounts of money on some really terrible stuff - BBC News is a fucking travesty. It’s like a bad joke - they were never perfect, but in the 1990s, they were largely trustworthy and insightful. In the 2000s, they’ve been consistently sniveling, lazy, and inaccurate, and employ a lot of really dubious journalists. Which would be fine, I guess, if they were Sky News, or something, or even ITV News, but they’re funded by this criminally-enforced penalty and never stop shrieking about their independence and “balance” and so on, and BBC News 24 is literally no better than a mediocre cable news service. They’re not faster. Their coverage isn’t better in-country (they do have good worldwide stuff, but you have to work to find that now, rather than it being part of the normal news). They’re not more truthful or accurate or balanced (albeit again, there’s no consistent bias, just a lot of individual pieces which are frequently staggeringly biased, so you can’t even mentally adjust for their tilt). Even their supposedly superior politics coverage relies entirely on a handful of individuals, the primary one a terrible journalist and frankly, a smug and onanistic member of the Twitterati (Laura Kuenssberg), who have, due to personal connections and being super-fucking-posh, more access to politicians and political gossip/rumours than an actual journalist would.
I think worldwide people do because of that. You get a similar thing, but more weakly, with US TV in the UK, where I don’t think a lot of British people really get just how much utter crap there is on US TV, because much of it doesn’t make it over here (or is only on some super-obscure channel late at night). Of course some good stuff doesn’t too.
The BBC’s reputation really stems from two things - firstly, it used to be really good at news.
That died in the 2000s when the BBC adapted to the 24-hour news cycle by becoming just as shit as any other 24-hour news cycle lot, and adopting this utterly false “impartiality” (which was actually a hard move to the right, in practical terms), where truth and fact is less important than fake balance (where their entire rep came from reporting the truth, no matter how ugly or disagreeable). This is the deal which lead to them deciding they couldn’t discuss climate change without giving a “climate skeptic” equal airtime to an actual scientist or the like (at all, ever). I know they like this bollocks about “the truth will out” and so on, but if you put a well-spoken but ultimately honest and truthful scientist up against a fucking slick, lying politician or ex-politician (which is what they consistently did), who do you think is going to come out better to most thickos? It’s amazing the scientists held up as well as they did. And they did this with tons of issues - but randomly not others - with no apparent rhyme or reason. People with no real right an opinion or airtime were treated as if they were equal to experts (this also helped to degrade the value of actual experts, given some angry mummy blogger would be put next to some sort of scientist or doctor or the like, as if she were the same thing).
To be fair to the BBC, most of the other shitty 24-hour news services don’t get broadcast worldwide, and don’t have a proper worldwide wing (which the BBC does), and as shit as they are, they’re often a lot better than the local news service in some second or third world country, so even now they still often look pretty good by comparison.
Secondly, they make really good documentaries, and pretty good dramas.
The trouble is, they’ve started making less and less of the former, though they’re still really good for nature docs. And a fair bit of their own output here is pretty dire light entertainment that thankfully rarely makes it abroad. It’s not unpopular, so I guess there’s that, but it is total crap with absolutely no redeeming value. Looking at you Strictly. I guess at least it’s not the Black and White Minstrel Show huh guys? The BBC produced that until a staggering 1978. The BBC got so much criticism it actually stopped making it in 1968, but then decided it was so popular that, who cares about racism, and brought it back the next year, and kept running it for another decade. There’s also a ton of really crap drama, much of which is a poorly-concealed and ineffective attempt to pander to regional audiences in the UK.
Also their radio output, particularly again like documentaries, discussions (not of a political nature), and so on, has always been good and remains good, but despite it being cheap to produce and so on, is frequently cut down further in favour of more drivel.