BBC licence fee

RTS London discuss the hunt for the next BBC Director General

In a month that saw No.10 Downing Street train its guns on the BBC, Bolton was pointing out how difficult the job has become. With current Director-General Tony Hall leaving the BBC in the summer to take over as chair of the National Gallery, the search is on for candidates.

There are serious issues to address for an incoming D-G: the Government wants to decriminalise failure to pay the licence fee; the decision by the BBC to make over-75s not on benefits begin paying the licence fee again this year; and the decline in young people accessing BBC services.

Will Boris bail out the BBC in licence fee row?

The National Pensioners Convention has called on the government to fund over-75s’ licences (Credit: NPC)

On 10 June, the licence fee time bomb – primed by Chancellor Gordon Brown and set ticking by his successor George Osborne – duly exploded, as forecast back in February’s Television*.

By granting the over-75s a free TV licence (Brown) and then transferring the cost and responsibility from the government to the BBC (Osborne), the two chancellors locked the corporation in a no-win situation. Claire Enders, of Enders Analysis, argues that the deal was “illegitimate” and never affordable: “It was a lose-lose for the BBC, its viewers and listeners.”

BBC faces the bill for licence fees

 New Broadcasting House (Credit: BBC/Jeff Overs)

Twenty years ago, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown set a time bomb ticking. This summer, it looks likely to blow up in the BBC’s face.

In November 1999, the Guardian reported: “Chancellor Gordon Brown swept away the burden of the BBC licence fee for the over-75s yesterday, in a move that delighted the broadcaster but left the rest of the television industry alarmed that the move might presage a rise in the licence fee for others.”

Paxman and Stewart on TV's election coverage

Jeremy Paxman and Alastair Stewart

Alastair Stewart may have hosted British television’s first political leaders’ debate in April 2010 but, more often than not, it was Jeremy Paxman who had the last word at a rumbustious RTS Legends lunch in May.

Steve Hewlett was the ringmaster at this highly entertaining event, which sought to bring an insider’s perspective to the recent general election.

For much of the time, the two TV anchor men agreed to disagree. Paxman was as cynical as Stewart was enthusiastic. Maybe he’d recently attended a positive-thinking course.

Stephen Lambert on revolutionising television

Stephen Lambert

Stephen Lambert looks a bit like Lenin – bald, with steely blue eyes and a bit unyielding. He can claim to be the man who revolutionised factual television, bringing us so many of the formats that dominate the schedules, from Wife SwapThe Secret Millionaire and Undercover Boss to Faking It.

His most recent hit is Gogglebox, the Channel 4 offering that united David Cameron and Nick Clegg in admiration, when asked during the election campaign which shows they enjoyed.