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Last Updated: Friday, 5 March, 2004, 15:23 GMT
Your comments
Sir David Attenborough
Did you agree with Sir David Attenborough's views?

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I lived in the UK for 25 years of my life, then I went abroad and the first thing I missed was the BBC. There is nothing like it in the world, and we should be proud of this amazing institution. It's what sets Britain from the rest of the world. They all try to come up to its standards of professionalism and subject matter. Please keep and improve Auntie (if possible). Less copying of commercial "silly" programmes and more of what the Beeb is best at which is things like Panorama, Horizon, Newsnight, Radio 4 and the World Service (of course).
Waleed Al-Temimi, Abu Dhabi - UAE

Sir David Attenborough should be the next director general of the BBC. His ideas and values are exactly what the BBC should be doing. Of course the BBC should be allowed to produce entertainment shows, but please, less reality and make-over programming.
Ian Morris, Wandsworth, London.

The BBC needs to grow up and STOP pandering to the lowest possible standards - NO MORE makeover programmes, celebrity muck, stupid children's TV with silly squeaky voices and 'pop' promos. Go back to the best days - good drama, fabulous documentaries - grown up TV which does not sink/dumb down to the trivial commercial rubbish we see far too much of elsewhere. Aim high.
Paul Shooter, Salisbury UK

The BBC is the best broadcaster in the world!! Tell me who is better?
Bob Arbuckle, Germany

The answer to the question, what is the point of the BBC?, is in what the BBC is doing at this moment, producing Panorama. No other media has the ability to investigate what is best for the public in the same way the BBC can. How many other channels and newspapers can investigate themselves in this way?
Saad Abdul-Rassak, Surrey, UK

The BBC is the best broadcaster in the world!! Tell me who is better? Look at what the rest of the world has to offer.
Bob Arbuckle, Germany

I think the programme is missing the point, it is not about the content of the BBC, it is about a tax on the citizens of this country which we could well do without. We have more media choice (and more taxes) than ever yet no choice at all with regard to the receiving of that media. It is about time the BBC was made totally commercial and made to pay its own way, just like every other TV/Radio station in this country.
Tommy Gibbons, Liverpool, England

I was just about to say that the BBC was an amazing institution, the new digital channels, the website, the World Service are simply outstanding but then I heard the acting Director General saying the programme on Michelangelo was wonderful; this made me feel that the BBC was probably heading fast for mediocrity.
Martine Gabriel, Beverley UK

I was a member of two BBC Advisory Councils and three years ago I wrote to Greg Dyke on behalf of the viewers I represented and said that we felt that there was nothing much on BBC to watch and that what was on was not worth watching. Thank goodness for local BBC radio. Things have not changed. They have got worse otherwise this programme would not be happening tonight. Also I feel that the BBC are very good at asking for opinions and views - smiling sweetly and ignoring those views they do not wish to hear. There is still the odd gem of a programme - so it can still be achieved.
Kaye Larkins, Dover Kent

I tend to trust the BBC more because they are paid for by me, not by anyone with an agenda.
Allen Honby, Blackburn, Lancashire

The debate seems to be too focused on TV. I listen to Radio 4 and the World Service a great deal and I cannot get this quality of programming anywhere else. The only issue I have with all of the BBC, whether it be TV, Radio or News is the London-centric view of Britain.
Mike Ashmore, UK, Berkshire

I'm afraid I agree with David Attenborough. I enjoy news, discussions, science, history, literature, music. I'm currently unemployed, so am well aware of the quality of daytime TV. I have no incentive to turn on my TV at the moment, and haven't for months, regardless of the time of day. When I switch on to watch the programmes I am interested in, I find them cropping up more and more on commercial stations. Only one or two of these programmes occur on the BBC and usually on Sundays. I do enjoy some entertainment programmes but at the moment, the variety and quality I prefer is increasingly being met through other channels, not the BBC.
Louise, Newport, South Wales

David Attenborough is king.
Tor Houghton, Brighton, UK

I rarely watch anything other than the BBC... that has to say something.
Ben Chapman, Shenfield, UK

I tend to trust the BBC more because they are paid for by me, not by anyone with an agenda.
Allen Honby, Blackburn, Lancashire

I am pleased to hear Mark Byford keep referring to radio. BBC Radio is of exceptional quality.
Ian Griffiths, Fordingbridge, England

Elstein is silly to think subscription will work. He says it can't be evaded. It can. ITVDigital's system was completely hacked...so it's not as foolproof as he makes out.
Gareth, London, UK

I am pleased to hear Mark Byford keep referring to radio. BBC Radio is of exceptional quality. What many people in the UK never listen to is the World Service. This has a worldwide influence and in my opinion presents a wide and balanced variety of programmes. I always listen to the 5.05 a.m. World Briefing to get a wider view of the world than even the Today programme on Radio 4.
Ian Griffiths, Fordingbridge, England

The licence fee enables the BBC to be independent of shareholders and commercial interests giving it a unique position in British media. I hope the BBC uses this position to maintain a high quality output, with the large proportion of science, news, and documentary programmes that we have come to expect. It should not try to compete or replicate programmes on commercial channels.
Elizabeth, Surrey, UK

Mark Byford has no idea what he is talking about with regard to morning TV. The scheduling of these programmes to be so alike day after day has reach a stage of being totally boring. As a pensioner, I have no desire to buy a property by auction, change my decor to enable me to sell it, change the way my garden looks, rummage around boot fairs or auction off what items I have to get some money. It really is time to start entertaining or educating or informing people on those things that are important in life. Perhaps he should be in the situation of being elderly and housebound, then perhaps he would soon realise how lousy the schedules for daytime TV really are. He should try viewing sometime.
Roy Gipson, Scotland

Why are the panel talking about the BBC as if it offered only TV? No one has mentioned BBC radio.
Judith Blundun, London UK

Panorama is a classic case in point about what has gone wrong with scheduling. It used to be on in a prime time Monday night slot. In the chase for viewers, it was moved to a late night slot which then meant it got fewer viewers, which then meant it got moved to the Sunday night graveyard slot it currently holds. It still manages to produce some fine investigative programs, they are just seen by fewer people.
Andy Gibbs, West Kilbride, Scotland.

I think the BBC has lost its way. They used to be an organisation that led the way. Now they just seem to follow what everyone else is doing.
Nigel Cross, Blackpool, England

I want the BBC to teach me things I don't know that are known, take risks in art and science, such as live drama and at the point happening science of today and produce more spectacular entertainment programmes, which cost lots of money in the past, such as the Morecambe and Wise and the Two Ronnies and Spike Milligan shows.
Susie Brig, Lea, Derbyshire

I think the BBC has lost it's way. They used to be an organisation that led the way. Now they just seem to follow what everyone else is doing. There is so much choice nowadays, surely I should have a choice of what organisation I pay my money to. With the BBC I do not feel I get value for money. Often there is nothing on the channels I'm interested in, so what am I paying for?
Nigel Cross, Blackpool, England

In the current form the BBC is a subscription service - only it's a compulsory subscription. Why should I pay for something I don't really want? We should have freedom of choice.
Adrian, Derby, Derbyshire

Is the BBC Director a good friend of Tony Blair? He answers questions like him, he doesn't listen like him and repeats himself until he's blue in the face like him. Why doesn't the BBC in England report world news in as much depth as the world service? I watched half of the Iraq war abroad and half in England, I found that the news in England was very vague but the world news told the full story. The same seems to happen with the Palestine-Israel conflict.
Derek Hall, Newcastle, England

I do not have a bank account and have to pay 20 per month for a licence. My friends who have an account and have positive incomes pay less than 10 per month. I could get over 100 channels for 18 per month from Sky, which would include all of the BBC channels. Part of my fee goes towards paying for all of the BBC channels, but I am not in a position financially to afford both subscriptions. Why should I have to pay any at all when you consider that I do not wish to watch soaps or the never ending increase of reality (cheap) TV?
John Earle, Skelmersdale

Sadly the BBC has descended into mediocrity. I firmly believe that the licence fee does not represent value for money and the programmes are dumbed down and targeted at the lowest common denominator. I would gladly dispense with a TV completely if it was not for the fact that when the BBC does get it right the programmes are superb. When the BBC goes digital I will cease to own a TV. It is not worth it and the distinction between the BBC and the commercial channels lessens weekly.
Graham Shephard, Eastbourne UK

Do you pay for hospitals you have never visited? Perhaps pay for schools when you have no children?
Gregory Roumeliotis, Glasgow

I would go along with paying for BBC only if you want it - provided I am allowed to stop paying for the dozens of channels I get bundled up by SKY because I want one of them - in fact they force me to pay for channels I hate.
Peter Slavid, Hillingdon, UK

David Elstein gets it completely wrong when he says that digital viewers could just be "switched off" if they don't pay the licence fee. BBC channels are broadcast unscrambled both on satellite and terrestrial. Most new Freeview boxes don't even have the circuitry or card reader to support scrambled broadcasts. Mr Elstein should get his facts straight before he starts shooting his mouth off.
James Slodzik, Maldon, England

As the standard of the BBC has fallen, I find myself watching more and more repeats of quality BBC programming of channels such as UK Gold and Drama. I hope that the BBC will return to the quality broadcasting upon which it built its reputation.
Kathryn Finlay, Edinburgh

By having subscriptions and allowing people to choose not to receive BBC programming, for whatever reasons, is a danger to the democratic life of the country as those individuals will only receive cultural content produced by organisations under commercial obligations, and not by institutions serving public service principles, like the BBC.
Geoff Court, Cardiff, Wales

Do you pay for hospitals you have never visited? Perhaps pay for schools when you have no children? The licence fee is a tax but instead of paying the government we pay the BBC directly so it remains politically independent. We pay for stuff we don't need ourselves all the time. That's the very basis of a welfare state, taking care of everyone. Some say the licence fee deprives them of choice. They say it's like being asked to pay for a Sprite when you only want to buy a 7up. But there is a crucial difference; this is about public service broadcasting. Despite the minority of dumbed down programmes the BBC fills a gap no commercial broadcaster would.
Gregory Roumeliotis, Glasgow, UK

So many comments want the TV licence to be graduated according to means. Why should the BBC TV service, out of all competing TV services, be treated as a social service? Do these commenters expect that TV sets, groceries and clothes etc should be sold at a rebate?
Shay, Leeds England

After the BBC's blatant anti-war stance during the recent Iraq conflict, I don't personally give a monkey's what happens to the BBC. I just resent the fact that I have to pay for it. Speaking for all the people? Don't make me laugh. Roll on the day when paying the licence fee is optional, then I can opt out.
R J Hayden, Exeter

Without doubt the greatest broadcasting organisation in the world and superb value for money
Andy, Stirling, Scotland

I very strongly believe that the BBC should be funded by a licence fee in order to maintain a high standard of public broadcasting which benefits everyone whether they watch it or not. I also think a licence fee which works out at about 30p per day is affordable by all and must be a bargain. And God preserve us from advertising!
John Solari, Perth Scotland

Last night's programme with the rather grand title of "What is the point of the BBC" featured very few views from black or Asian people. I find this odd given that Byford spent all his time talking about the importance of appealing to the "whole" of Britain. And I'm sure that you agree that since "everyone" pays for the BBC, "everyone" should be represented. Was this an oversight or a sad reflection of where the production staff are coming from?
Katherine Eisner, UK

Note: The audiences for the programme were selected by ICM and were chosen independently of the BBC.

I fear for the BBC with Mark Byford's attitude which seemed to repeat - The public like the BBC, we intend to give quality programmes but I will not take heed of anyone else in deciding what constitutes quality. I agreed entirely with Sir David Attenborough's contributions to the debate.

The BBC has been dumbed down and is copying the worst elements of commercial stations both radio and TV with adverts even interrupting the ends of programmes. On TV they even copy the practice of making adverts louder than the programmes.

Steps to improve the BBC should include.

1 Fewer "me too" programmes copying and competing with commercial channels.
2 More quality drama, cultural and intellectually challenging programmes though not becoming a "snob" channel.
3 More modern science and engineering coverage to encourage interest. Not as at present a few history programmes about scientists and engineers.
4 Programme scheduling which does not put soap against soap, drama against drama and science/engineering against similar programmes on commercial channels.

Few have two TVs and video recorders so that they can catch the programmes they want which are on several channels simultaneously. Those that do have time to watch on the evenings when whole blocks programmes are of no interest.
Alfred Reading, West Molesey, UK

Please leave the BBC alone. We do not want any government to be in charge of the BBC, which is possible with this government. Also the licence fee is fine, especially as it is easy to pay monthly or weekly etc., any increases are gradual. Subscriptions could be expensive.
Miss E Power, Bushey, Herts

There are powerful forces at work to dismantle the BBC. The Brits should take the next step with utmost care. My own solution is a board of non executive directors, completely separate from the executive branch. The board should have twice yearly question and answer sessions with a select commons committee akin to the Bank of England. That way elected representatives of the people can question the selected representatives of the people.

The charter should be granted by the government and dept of culture to oversee it. The dept of culture should also come before the select committee. As to the licence fee structure, the current one is not broken so leave it until say 2010 when everything is digital. Then decide which way British people want to go. Any moves now will be seen to be taken in haste.
Subhash Kothari, Stanmore, Middlesex

Without doubt the greatest broadcasting organisation in the world and superb value for money - hundreds of thousands of hours of TV and radio for the price of 4 premier league football match tickets. Please can we look beyond saving a few quid - there is so much more to life than that! I'll shortly be moving to the USA, will miss the BBC more than anything else (oh, and family of course) - God Bless BBC America. Can I still pay my license fee from abroad?
Andy, Stirling, Scotland

The BBC is institutionally biased - pro left, pro EU, anti Tory, anti Israel, anti Bush, anti English and totally in hock to Political Correctness. Not surprising since it only advertises for staff in the Grauniad! I resent paying for such an organisation and watch its output as little as possible. Root and branch reform is long overdue.
David Hearnshaw, Aslackby, Sleaford, Lincs UK

Quite simply, we are offered little choice and too many repeats.
Mike, UK

I live in one of the most populated areas of Britain, the West Midlands. In my particular area we cannot receive 'Freeview' but still have to pay the full licence fee for BBC services we cannot get through this system. The BBC World Service covers probably a quarter of the globe but some viewers in the West Midlands cannot get some BBC extra channels. Is the BBC really catering for everyone or just certain geographical areas?
Jane McRae, Dudley, West Midlands

We are shown too many variations in the same genre (house/garden make-over; cooking; antiques; 'house-swap' programmes, and if that's not bad enough they're repeated on the BBC digital channels or repeated onto the mainstream channels. The worst offence has to be special editions of Eastenders and the like. Quite simply, we are offered little choice and too many repeats.
Mike, UK

The BBC is much more than television. Why has no one mentioned the impact of the BBC's Web site, both nationally and worldwide? The BBC can only provide such an in-depth, independent, commercially free service because of the way it is funded. Less than 10 a month (free for OAPs) for multiple television and radio channels of all different types plus extensive news, programme and general information on the internet, I think that's great value and I don't have access to the digital channels.
Chris Grimmette, Hougton Regis, Beds

I think it would be a terrible mistake if any move were made which would impair the BBC's ability to keep informing and entertaining us to the high standard that we have been accustomed to. I don't think some people realise how lucky we are to have such a reliable and high quality public service broadcaster that is admired and respected all over the world.
Rebecca Keech, West Sussex, England

Although the licence fee is getting harder to defend because people are forced to pay for something they may not want or use I do feel that the cost, at about 2 per week is great value for money. It is less than the cost of a daily newspaper. There is very little the commercial channels do better than the BBC and not having to be subjected to companies trying to sell you something every 20 minutes is bliss. The present fee paying arrangements are not perfect but it is a whole lot better than any of the alternatives.
David Jones, Loughton, UK

How wrong can Clive McLeod, Birmingham, UK be. CBeebies is a great channel with good quality and educative programmes. It is a channel I can watch with my daughter and even enjoy some programmes myself. It is a channel that gave birth to several new quality programmes such as Ballamory. And more important, it is free of over advertisement. I don't want my daughter to be exposed to commercial TV with loads of advertisements for junk foods and drinks and expensive toys and clothes. CBeebies is a breath of fresh air and should remain.
Pascal Jacquemain, Welwyn Garden City

How on earth can Mark Byford dare to claim that BBC Governors ''represent'' the public when such governors are not elected by the public?
Terry Daly, London

I could not believe some of the comments aired on this programme last night. The acting Director General, in what he might term a robust defence, stepped over that line, the one that suggests he listens, the corporation listens. He kept on pounding away at a representative corporation, one that mirrors the concerns and outlook of its viewers.

Yet we see an example of how out of touch, belligerent in support of its own self-image and how narrow the corporation is - exemplified by this "state your views" forum that has to undergo tests for BBC rectitude by scrutinisers that interrogate assiduously for all the PC myths, legends, fantasies, conformities and narrowly liberally defined characterisation.

BBC has turned a medium for informing into a formulaic desert of "old favourites" and ratings chasers. If the BBC had to compete on even terms with Sky, depending on winning its audience, I think that the much-vaunted corporation would fold tomorrow. We can see through the thinly veiled mechanism used whereby you have become an agent for digital excess.

There are hardly enough watchable programmes on the BBC's two main channels without wandering off into output that is contrived, in the way that Clarke Diaries were, to pump up sales of new receivers. I think that you have lost your way. You seem tetchy and inconsiderate, top heavy and too driven by metrics. What ever happened to Auntie?
Malcolm, Cheshire

Panorama was meant to be a full and fair debate. Through Gavin Esler's ineptitude, and lack of fairness, it turned into the David Elstein show. The bitter Elstein, who achieved very little of what he wanted during his time at the BBC, was allowed to spout his ludicrous funding theories, without anything resembling a challenge from the presenter. Notably, Elstein did not have the courage to admit he detests the BBC, and is now nothing more than a puppet for his friend Murdoch.
Gavin, Cardiff, Wales

How on earth can Mark Byford dare to claim that BBC governors ''represent'' the public when such governors are not elected by the public? Is the BBC democraphobic, or does it see itself as ''independent'' of the licence fee payers as well? Funny how I can get no one at the BBC to answer that last question. The Campaign to Democratise the BBC, of which I am the elected chairman, calls for the election of all future BBC governors as the only way of ensuring that the BBC does indeed serve the public and is democratically accountable to it. Licence fee taxation with democratic representation - it's about time!
Terry Daly, London, England

I do not really mind whether there is a licence fee or TV subscription but the programme last night concentrated solely on TV. Many people may not watch TV but those same people will almost certainly listen to some form of radio, either local or national. These too are using the BBC and, if the licence fee is scrapped, how are you going to charge these people for their use. Or do we go back to a radio licence. I would be most aggrieved if those people still had access to my beloved BBC in any form, if they do not pay for it in anyway.
Jackie Paris, Brighton, England

The BBC radio programmes are worth the licence fee on their own
Stephen Whorlow, England
How very British! We have a service which is the envy of the world and we decide that this is not good enough and go about ruining it! It does have its faults but the whole premise and ideal of having a publicly funded broadcasting service is superb.
John Gonzalez, Halifax, England

Aren't some services so important and advantageous to a modern enlightened society, such as access to news, that they should be considered a right? Why should someone who wishes to only watch Channel 4 news pay the BBC for the privilege?
Chris Hulme, Manchester UK

It is my belief the licence should now be abolished. It's only there to fund the BBC and for no other reason. The law courts have been led to believe otherwise in terms of the fact that if you have TV you must have a licence irrespective of whether you watch the BBC or not. That in my view is a breach of the human right to reasonable freedom of choice. We don't pay for a licence to listen to our CD's. We don't pay for a licence to use our mobile phones. Most of what I watch these days is on digital, like the Hallmark channel, and E4. Also Channel 5. And as for radio, well the BBC do not offer anything I want to listen to.
Robert H, Wolverhampton and England

People do pay for commercial TV in the cost of advertising, which is added to the price of products and this applies even if you do not watch any TV.
Charlie, Hull, England

I am a student single mother. I would rather pay the licence fee as a one off payment to watch TV for a year than pay to have e.g. Sky Digital installed then paying a monthly fee on top with the fine of up to 90 if I am unable to continue the monthly subscription for the rest of the year. I must also point out that is it not always the case that people cannot afford to pay the licence fee, more the case that if they can get away without paying they will.
Joanne Vickers, Gateshead

For the money that we spend on the BBC we could have another 150 channels
Angela, Suffolk
The BBC is an excellent broadcaster and well worth the 30 odd pence a day it costs. (Nobody mentioned that we also pay for commercial broadcasting due to the increase in the cost of goods to recoup advertising expenses.)

The only area I have some sympathy with David Elstein is in the regressive nature of the licence fee. However, surely it can be restructured to be more progressive (ie a reduction for those on benefits) rather than throwing it out which would forever alter (and in my opinion damage) the BBC.

I'm also troubled by the fact that much of the current opposition to the Beeb stems from those with vested commercial or political interests. I can only hope that this current wave of disproportionate criticism will not affect the Charter review in too detrimental a way.
John Horne, Hereford

The BBC radio programmes are worth the licence fee on their own. When you take into account how much is free to all there is something for everyone 24 hours a day.
Stephen Whorlow, England

Split the BBC into public service channels funded by taxation and entertainment channels by subscription and/or advertising. If the BBC is truly supplying popular and quality entertainment programming as it claims, it will flourish in the true commercial environment.
Ellen Robinson, Brighton

Don't we already pay enough for digital satellite broadcasting? For the money that we spend on the BBC we could have another 150 channels. Get adverts on the BBC and let it self fund. We don't need another bill.
Angela, Suffolk, England

I agree that the people who watch, listen or read the BBC should pay for it. However, if i do not watch the BBC, why should i pay for it? The rest of the world, who listen to online radio, or read the internet site, do not pay for anything. It is all funded by the British people only. How can that be possibly fair? I'm sure that if you were to remove the BBC channels, from the other Cable channels I have, I would be fine. I admit I use the site, and listen to the radio, so charge me accordingly.
Michael Nixon, Swansea - Wales

It seems the discussion is revolving around TV. What about all the other BBC services covered within the licence, in particular the wonderful local, national and world-wide radio
Roger Davis, Halifax UK

Offer a week of Television licence fee back to everybody. Then take every BBC service off the air for one week (Radio, TV, Internet - everything) - if this happened then the general public might appreciate what a fabulous range of programmes and services the BBC has to offer.
Bill Sobey, Plymouth

The BBC is losing its independence. It needs to pull its finger out and listen to Peter Bazalgette
Carl Silver, Bolton, Lancashire

The fact that a programme such as this is taking place, is full justification of the BBC. Long live the BBC and the licence fee. A true democratic broadcaster. Just get rid of Eastenders, the gardening, decorating and reality "celebrity" (which seems to be full of people that are not "celebrities") rubbish! The idea of a board of governors is "spot-on", but they should be of a wide age, and socio-economic group.
Cliff Jacobs, Coventry

If the BBC became a subscription service then the poorest in society would be cut off from entertainment programming and left solely public service broadcasting and those 'free' channels that are available - the likes of QVC and abdomeniser advertorials. I agree that the BBC has 'dumbed down' over the past few years and perhaps Sir David Attenborough should return to run BBC programming as he did with BBC 2.
Mark Bowyer, Birmingham, United Kingdom

I am surprised that the debate did not seriously consider funding the BBC out of taxation
Richard Porter, Maidenhead
Regulate or defend. The governors have proven they cannot do both.
Duncan Mckay, Leicester, UK

I was not impressed by Mark Byford's comments relating to programme quality and range. I was wholeheartedly in agreement with Sir David Attenborough. I feel that we need people at the top in the BBC who have a real knowledge of programmes and a genuine commitment to high quality programmes. From Mark Byford I get the sense of a Chief Executive of a commercial company not a man with real idealistic belief in public service
Julian Allen, London

I think the BBC spends too much on children's entertainment. In fact I can see no need whatever for two complete digital channels to this end. They are well catered for on the analogue channels and they certainly do not need rubbish from TV before going to school. Two channels dumped should be quite a saving!
Clive McLeod, Birmingham, UK

So, "almost 70% of people in the UK want changes to the way the BBC is funded" (Top TV and Radio Stories Now) Hmmmm. . . from the same ICM/Panorama survey, I see that 62% don't want a subscription payment method and 67% don't want to see advertising used for funding the BBC. So, licence fee it is, then . . . right?
Joe W, Wakefield England

I think it was sad to see Mark Byford trying so hard to justify his existence as Director General of the BBC with a 'one covers all' argument. I believe that in this age of the consumer society no-one should have to pay for a service unless they really want to, and the way the BBC bowed so easily to the government's criticism in light of the Hutton report shows that it has a long way to go to convince the public that it is acting independently as claimed.
Parvez Sobhkhiz, London, England.

I am surprised that the debate did not seriously consider funding the BBC out of taxation. The government agrees the licence fee, so if it agreed to pay the BBC a fixed fee per household out of general taxation that would make no difference to the Corporation's editorial independence. However it would mean that all the costs of administration, enforcement and evasion could be used instead for programmes, and the argument that the poor have to pay the same as the rich could be dismissed. The average cost per household would be reduced. I do not and would not pay for subscription channels. All I would ask is that the BBC smartens up instead of dumbing down, and cuts out all the advertising such as pre-recorded trails repeated ad nauseam for days and weeks before the programme goes out.
Richard Porter, Maidenhead, Berks.

I'm astounded that Mr. Byford didn't pick up on the dozens of contradictions that his critics were forwarding as carefully thought out critiques. I can't help but think that Greg Dyke would have put up a far more spirited defence. My favourite? The guy who bemoaned the fact that poor people couldn't afford the licence fee, and put forward making the BBC 'subscription only' as a solution.
Deke Roberts, Oxford, England.

The licence fee is an absolute bargain! For about 9 per month we get a really great range of both radio and television programmes. Overall, this represents far better value than cable or satellite. No adverts - that is wonderful! The repeats are modest in number and mostly well chosen, unlike the vast barrage of repeats on the pay-to-view channels where one is overwhelmed with repeats. There has, though, been some "dumbing down" - or have I simply got older and enjoy different programmes?
Ed Tiley, Pinner, Middlesex

A subscription would presumably be controlled per receiver, where the decoder box is, not one per household. A typical multi-set family will therefore expect to pay a larger fee than at present. However I do not think the government has a practical funded plan to turn off analogue transmission in the near future, given the large number of analogue sets, still being sold, which will all need conversion boxes to be paid for. And "Freeview" boxes are not fitted with encoding, so they would need changing also. So it does not seem that subscription is a practical option anyway.
John Pratt, Milton Keynes

The BBC is a last bastion of independence. It must be strong enough to counteract the power of Murdoch.
Bertram C. Johnston, Belgium
This evening's Panorama seemed to set out to deliberately sabotage the BBC. Instead of pointing out that the Corporation is the only public service utility that works efficiently and is held in universal respect, you asked questions that were bound to bring it into disrespect. Over the years governments have destroyed the Health Service, Rail Transport, standards in education, an effective House of Lords and now the judiciary, in fact so much of what we used to respect and look up to. That must not happen to the BBC.

When external control was mentioned, you never even touched on the fact that Ofcom has been deliberately rigged to debilitate the BBC. The panel includes two former Blair aides and a host of Independent Television members who would do anything to bring down the Corporation. At no time did you in any way bring out the context in which a tighter controlled BBC would have to work.

The Murdoch Group has a political licence to swing elections, to destroy commercial opponents and to make the unlimited millions that, if the BBC is undermined, will allow it to play havoc with the day-to-day life of this country. This foreign owned group has already, during Hutton, showed, through a concerted attack by the Sun, The Times the News of the World, BSkyB and Fox what it can do at a nod from Rupert Murdoch. The invitation to Michael Howard to the Group knees-up in South America shows that Murdoch has a strangle hold on both political parties. The BBC is a last bastion of independence. It must be strong enough to counteract the power of Murdoch.

How dare you put on a programme attacking yourselves without dealing with these issues? Gavin Esler seems to have a special agenda to highlight criticism of the corporation on Newsnight and he carried on in the same vein on Panorama. Mark Byford came alive much, much too late and was really ineffective. In fact David Attenborough was the only person who appeared to want the BBC to survive in any viable form.
Bertram C. Johnston, Belgium

In this part of West Oxfordshire we are unable to receive digital broadcasting. Furthermore, it has been impossible to obtain any information about when the service is likely to be available. In the meantime I am expected to continue to pay the licence fee for what is only a part of the BBC's output. So much for the acting director general's repeated claim on this evening's discussion programme that he, his management and the board of governors are dedicated to bringing all services to all of the viewing public and that, thus, the licence fee was justified. He was more concerned about "the poor" and what steps needed to be taken to ensure their access. If, as was stated in one of the subtitles during the programme, analogue broadcasting will be switched off "when enough viewers were able to receive it" (my quotation marks), may I know how many constitutes "enough" in the thinking of the BBC, and what will be the outcome for those who, at the appropriate time, are still ! excluded.
Tony Hickin, Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxon, UK

If the BBC did care about people they would make the licence fee free to low income people
David Booth, Britain
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it". The last few years has seen endless institutional change for change's sake by semi informed people who fail to appreciate that the best institutions evolve through a learning process. I think the BBC generally provides very good public service broadcasting. The licence fee should be retained. Yes there could be scope to strengthen the expertise in the Board of Governors (or improve its access to advice) and certainly it should be independent of the Executive. God forbid another Sky - which I pay for only because it has hijacked sport - whose quality I am powerless to influence.
Rob Mellors, Nottingham, UK

The four benchmarks we should maintain in our BBC (a quality service which was, and hopefully will remain, the envy of the world) regardless on how we decide to apply digital technology: - Independent and accessible to all
- Freedom from commercial and political manipulation
- Quality truthful comprehensive journalism
- Quality diversified educational and entertainment programmes.
Brian Davis, Ickenham, Uxbridge, UK

Neither an individual or institution can serve two masters, therefore the BBC either serves the public or the government. If it serves the public according to its charter and finance it will remain independent. But if it bows to the government, it will only become a propaganda machine and lose its independence.
Chris Kerr , Runcorn England

Having just watched your Panorama debate on the future funding of the BBC, I write to agree with the proposal that the BBC digital channels are funded by subscription rather than the licence fee. The reason for this is simple; I will not watch these channels because they are, in the main, defaced by on-screen channel identification logos which I find intolerable. I do not subscribe to Sky because of their digital graphics and I strongly resent having to pay for something I won't watch.

I appreciate this comment will end up in the bin because I understand your acting Director General has written that he intends to ignore protests such as mine, but I can but hope for change. I strongly believe that digital TV is dead unless its (and I don't just mean the BBC's) current appalling presentation is improved.
Peter Sillick, Hindhead, Surrey, England

If there is a problem with the poor and the licence fee, surely that's for the benefits system to sort out?
Alex, Stirling, Scotland

I am not happy at paying this fee/tax to line the pockets and protect the jobs to keep people like out of touch Mr Byford, he should try to balance the books each week as a single parent on state benefit. Mr Byford is just bothered about us making him move to a new job, as the removal of this tax would cost him his job. He claims he cares what our needs are, I fear he lies. If the BBC did care about people they would make the licence fee free to low income people, but no they suck long and hard and most of the court cases are in fact poor people held to ransom. They use the law as tax collectors too, rub our nose in it why don't you. Time for change BBC. You cannot hide forever.
David Booth, Britain

Whilst the quality of programming seems to have dipped in recent years, it is still mostly light years ahead of the competition - and for a fraction of the price. If the licence fee is lost, the cost will increase as fewer will pay, quality will drop with lack of funding leading to a lack of ownership and respect by the nation. In the end it will be just another channel, probably with advertising.

The UK is a small country, especially if compared with America. The total revenue across all broadcasters, certainly if advertising revenue is used, will be too small to pay for quality programmes. Abroad recently, the advertisements probably lasted about 25 minutes in one block - I was wondering if the TV station had closed down. Please let's not get to this.

Also, the radio quality will suffer. Almost all commercial radio has very little local interest, and offers very little other than pop music - at least when the adverts aren't on. In fact, commercial radio seems to be designed for the under 35's only, what about the rest?

And the BBC is only about a tenner a month, under 40% of what the subscription channels cost me, which are mainly repeats or American repeats. And if I want to see sport or films I would need to see my bank manager.

So please, keep the BBC as it is. I certainly wouldn't want any government interference. After all they're unable to run a transport system or a health service, so I suggest they keep away from the TV.
David Pilgrim, Bristol

Spend a week watching the French channels! You don't know how lucky you are
Colin Ormston, France
As a musician, the thing I fear the most is the cutting of funding for the BBC. What's going to happen to their Music resources for example, like their orchestras.
Michael Martin, Mill Hill, London

I think that the licence fee system is fine, I pay it by Direct Debit every month so I don't miss the money. I subscribe to digital TV and find that 9 times out of 10 I watch BBC channels. I don't earn a great deal, so I don't have a new car or a state of the art TV, but I am happy to pay the licence fee. I feel that the BBC provides the best quality TV programmes at the moment, and I am happy for my children to watch them. I watched a programme on Michelangelo tonight with my 8 year old son who had lots of questions and was extremely interested in it. The programme was well written and really kept us interested. It was a good example of what the BBC is all about.
Sharon Vasey, Gateshead, England

Sorry, but I am infuriated by the ill informed comments by your representative on the right (ex channel 5). OK I along with close to a million Brits live outside of the UK but tune into the BBC channels. His assertion that subscription channels provide some of the best programming is absolute rubbish - if the guy has a job in television then he is there under false pretences.

I am also disappointed but not surprised by the results of your poll to scrap the licence fee - it's endemic of the attitude evolving in the UK - I'm all right Jack, pull up the ladder - the reason most of us ex pats left the place! Long live the BBC - still the foremost broadcaster in the world by a mile - if you don't believe me then spend a week watching the French channels! You don't know how lucky you are.
Colin Ormston, St Goussaud, France

I'm a student nurse who has just been taken to court over non payment of the TV licence. I've a child and house to support, never committed a crime before and I'm being treated like a common criminal. it's a disgrace. I just cannot afford it..
David, Glossop

I think the BBC is an outstanding organisation and this is internationally recognised. The licence fee does give quite a lot of independence to the BBC and it is still less than comparative subscription charges. The BBC also offers generally much broader range and better services.
Richard Wells, Aberystwyth, UK

I think that retired and those below the tax threshold should not have to pay the licence/tax fee
David Clancey, St.Neots

One must commend Panorama and BBC for the soul searching programme. Well Done. Poor show however from the Director General who very spinelessly and slavishly throughout the programme tried to defend the Board of Governors, programming etc. I think this showed great weakness not to admit to correction in a 2bn turnover business.
Kunle Osilaja, Sutton, UK

It is typical of people in this country to not know they have a good thing until it is too late
Tristan, Scotland
The BBC should be separate from government, I doubt that the acting DG will be strong enough to fight the BBC corner, he gives the impression that he is trying to keep in with them, so no way he will maintain their independence. The BBC needs to maintain its independence. The Hutton report was a disgrace - it whitewashed the government, and was totally unfair to the BBC
Noreen, Scotland

The BBC is much more than television. Why has no-one mentioned the impact of BBC Radio, both nationally and worldwide? The quality of BBC Radio is beyond compare.
Stephen Rajan-Iyer, Southbourne, Emsworth, W Sussex

The BBC Director General (acting) harps on about the BBC being accountable to its viewers. How? I have no way of showing my opinion about BBC programmes. I cannot withhold my licence fee, so how do I or anyone else affect what goes on at the BBC.

Now if it was a subscription channel then if I was not happy with the programming, I could cancel my subscription. It's time for change to a fairer and a real accountable corporation.
E C Vincent, London

I think the BBC does a fantastic job. I am happy to pay the licence fee for continuation of quality broadcasts. I think the structure of payments could be improved for some - eg the way students are forced to pay the full fee...I believe the vast majority of students are presently risking detection rather than pay - it would be far more cost effective for the BBC to make a minimal charge so that a greater number of students paid.
Cath Whitehead, Belmont, Lancashire

Having just watched the Panorama programme I realise that I have the experience, knowledge and understanding to become a BBC Governor.
Susan Birghouse, UK

I think everyone has got far too carried away with the outcome of the Hutton inquiry
David Williams, Blackpool
I think everyone has got far too carried away with the outcome of the Hutton inquiry, but that was probably the intention of the government. They have been at war with the BBC ever since they came to power. Do you remember shortly after they came to power when they refused to send government ministers because they were asked difficult questions? Undoubtedly mistakes were made, but if the government underwent a major reorganisation and a review of its funding every time it made mistakes, they'd be resigning in their droves.
David Williams, Blackpool

I am happy with the way the BBC is funded, I don't want to subscribe or to suffer the intrusion of advertising. The system works so don't mess with it. It is typical of people in this country to not know they have a good thing until it is too late. The BBC is respected and envied the world over, how could we possibly think of destroying it. Lets face it without the licence fee the BBC would not exist.
Tristan, Edinburgh, Scotland

I suggest that anyone questioning the BBC licence fee funding go and experience the terrible 'free' American broadcasting content for a year. They will quickly appreciate the value of a broadcasting body that is independent of commercial interests and consumer fads. The BBC is a great example of a 'merit good' - you don't know that you need or want it until you see the various educational, informative and entertaining content. Sometimes people don't know what is good for them until afterwards...this is one of those things.
Rebekah Ingall, Harpenden, UK & California, USA

Leave the BBC alone, it's much cheaper than subscription channels, and you're not interrupted by intrusive advertising. The quality of the programs is A1. Keep it independent.
Len Beattie, Burnley, UK

Our family has been a subscriber to Sky TV since it's inception. We have a very wide choice of what we watch, when we watch it and the opportunity of interacting with elements of the programme. We don't mind paying for this service as it is OUR choice. What we very strongly object to, is having to pay for something, at the point of imprisonment, that really in this day and age should be a freedom of choice issue. The licence fee funding the BBC is unfair, unjust and undemocratic, from what I have heard of other peoples views in opinion polls. Get rid of this unjust tax now and stop trying to justify it's existence.
Art Goodsir, UK

There are too many cooking, gardening, makeover and sub-standard programmes to justify paying 116 a year
Richard Padden, Glasgow
As far as I can see, the licence fee should be abolished as the standard of programmes on the BBC are of very poor quality. There are too many cooking, gardening, makeover and sub-standard programmes to justify paying 116 a year for a channel I very rarely watch.
Richard Padden, Glasgow, Scotland

The BBC provides the best broadcasting service anywhere (terrestrial TV, radio and internet) even though BBC1 and BBC2 have been dumbed down and we cannot receive Freeview in EH9. The licence fee is a much better bargain than satellite channels, or commercial channels paid for by advertising.
Mike Hunter, Edinburgh, Scotland

Mark Byford's spin ruined any chance of a real debate. What a disappointment...
David Gould, Bristol, UK

I like the BBC in it's present form - I like paying for it via a licence fee rather than having to subscribe to a package of channels from a commercial provider. I really do not like watching drama or sport on commercial stations as the advertising is too intrusive - I am happy to pay 116 for a licence to have a great variety of well made shows without adverts breaking up their flow.
Steven Richards, Northampton, England

I believe that the BBC provides excellent value for money. It serves all without bias. Without a universal BBC provision, parts of society would effectively be unplugged from the world. A step backward for people, whilst technology leaps forward.

Consider, if the poor cannot afford the present licence fee how could they afford to pay subscriptions charges of 25+ per month ...assuming they would be on a par with the current basic Sky package?
Yvonne Anderson, Kilmarnock, Scotland

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SEE ALSO:
What's the point of the BBC?
22 Feb 04  |  Panorama
Majority 'want change to TV fee'
06 Mar 04  |  Entertainment
Meet the Panel
05 Mar 04  |  Panorama
Public consultation exercise
05 Mar 04  |  Panorama


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