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Could Netflix subscribers help fund the BBC? Suffolk MP suggests new model

PUBLISHED: 17:09 08 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:31 08 May 2019

James Cartlidge called for a change to BBC funding. Picture: GREGG BROWN

James Cartlidge called for a change to BBC funding. Picture: GREGG BROWN

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge has suggested a supplement to Netflix subscriptions could be used to finance a slimmed-down BBC as an alternative to the licence fee.

Mr Cartlidge said he did not believe the licence fee is a good way of raising money for public service broadcasting, but said there needs to be a way to ensure people who benefit from the BBC help fund it.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Cartlidge said many young people do not watch the BBC, but do subscribe to services like Netflix, which stream television and films online.

He said: "I think that the licence fee is deeply, deeply anachronistic. It is levied on people without any reference to their ability to pay and, in fact, without reference to whether they even watch the BBC.

"It doesn't seem to me to fit with the era in which we live."

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He added: "So, how should we pay for it? Well, obviously, I don't imagine that I am the world's first expert on this point, but I think that taking the principle of public service broadcasting, which I do believe in, everyone should contribute to some degree based on their ability to pay.

"So, for example, we should look at a core service for the BBC funded, for example, by a supplement on subscriptions to Netflix and so on, ensuring that everyone who benefits from having a public broadcaster contributes to some degree."

The remarks came during a debate on whether people over 75 should have free TV licences.

Mr Cartlidge said he did not think anyone should have to pay a licence fee, but noted that young people are not likely to have the same benefits currently available to retired people.

He added: "Those entering work now will not receive occupational pensions or many of the benefits those who have retired have and we do need, at some point, to debate that and the implications thereof."

The BBC has been funded by a licence fee since the corporation was set up nearly a century ago. In its earliest days it was a radio licence - after the Second World War a television licence was introduced and the radio licence was scrapped in 1971.

Over recent years there have been a number of discussions about whether licences remain the best way of funding the BBC - especially as fewer people now watch BBC shows.

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