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The BBC licence fee is back in the news again. But the debate about whether to scrap it or not misses the fundamental value of the BBC to our culture, economy and way of life.

Nearly all of us use the BBC each week, watching whether that is watching Strictly, tuning into sports on the radio or checking out the local news. The BBC is about more than a licence. It is part of us. Its job is not to compete with the likes of big competitors like Netflix or Amazon. It is to offer exceptional value to all audiences, in part of the country.

The BBC is not just about the news. It’s not even about TV. It is about educating our children, bringing the nation together and sharing our values around the world. It is about creating jobs and rebuilding our cities – particularly in the North, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Its unique funding model allows it to be a truly public service broadcaster – a model for levelling up, with half of its employees working outside of London. Take Salford, through its presence at MediaCity, the BBC supports 6,400 creative jobs either directly or indirectly. In Cardiff, the BBC adds over £1 billion to the Welsh economy and supports almost 2000 jobs.

And when we think of things that matter to Co-op Party members, such as community journalism, local radio and the creative industries, the BBC stands tall in its work.

So, firstly, thank you to Co-op Party members for taking an interest in the future of the BBC, and for the opportunity to share our work with you. You have been looking at this issue consistently over the years, not just now, in a time of risk. It is our BBC and it is right that we get a say in its future and reach.

Here are just some the reasons why the BBC should matter to us all:

  • The BBC became the UK’s largest classroom during COVID-19 – with two thirds of primary school students using Bitesize education during lockdown
  • It brings us together – during the pandemic most people turned into the BBC for the latest updates
  • It creates jobs across the UK – already half of BBC jobs are outside London, with over £100 million invested in skills and training over the last 4 years
  • It supports our creative industries and local news – providing 39 local radio stations and countless local projects
  • It is vital to the UK’s reputation right around the world – promoting Global Britain and British values abroad.

To ensure this proudly British institution endures for another century, the Government must retain the licence fee with a sustainable funding settlement. As we think about its future, funding, governance and reach across our communities are vital considerations, against the backdrop of an ever-quicker pace of change in technology and media consumption.

Despite numerous attempts to undermine the licence fee, no-one has come up with a better funding model that would protect its unique local, national and international reach. A subscription model cannot delivery that. The universal principle of public service broadcasting matters, and reducing that to just commercial production or targeting profit at special audience undermines that.

Through our members in Bectu, we are the largest union in the BBC. But this isn’t just about jobs. Our members share a commitment to high-quality, public service broadcasting in every part of the country. We want to see the BBC do better, for example, on race and diversity both on screen and in production. In a fragmented world, the BBC brings us together and creates shared experiences across place, age and background. You can read more about Bectu’s campaign to protect the BBC here.

If we value it, now is the time to get involved.