Turn the BBC into the British Broadcasting Co-operative

A petition to the UK Government calls for the BBC to be turned into a worldwide co-operative.

A petition to the UK Government calls for the BBC to be turned into a worldwide co-operative.

Turning the BBC into the British Broadcasting Co-operative would eliminate the licence fee and instead encourage voluntary members, who would have a say in how the media giant is run, according to the petition.

Proposed by Sara Scarlett, a supporter of mutual solutions with a background in the Liberal Democrat party, the Government petition could be debated in the House of Commons if it reaches 100,000 signatures.

The document reads: "Her Majesty's Government should turn the British Broadcasting Corporation into a Cooperative with a voluntary membership. This way the BBC would be owned by the individuals who choose to be members. Members would pay a yearly fee for the service in lieu of commercial advertising. This would eliminate the need for the television license, a de facto tax, but still maintain the option of advert-free, non-profit television."

Ms Scarlett, Media Associate at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, says: "The television license is a tax in everything but name. Advert-free, non-profit television should always be an option for consumers. Turning the BBC from a government-owned corporation into a consumer-owned co-operative would change nothing about its current high quality content — just the unfair aspect of how it is funded. It would give it an even bigger advantage on it’s rivals with 12m co-operative members in the UK and 1 billion worldwide.

"Many regard spending £145.50 year on television as frivolous cost they would not normally have unless forced to, especially in the present economic climate where many are watching every penny. As a consumer I should only have to pay for the services I use. Likewise other people should not have to pay for television I enjoy and value if they don’t enjoy and value it themselves. That is unfair."

In an article for the Conservative Co-operative Movement, Ms Scarlett believes the quality of the BBC would be increased if owned by those who choose to be members, rather than having to pay a mandatory licence fee.

She adds: "Turning the Beeb into a co-operative is a win-win situation. If you were given the opportunity to preserve something that you enjoy and value, whilst at the same time making it fair, more efficient and democratically accountable – it would be silly not to do so."

A similar idea was also proposed by former Labour leadership candidate David Miliband two years ago. Though Mr Miliband proposed that the current TV licence fee stays in place, and the difference would be mutual ownership of the Corporation. In a joint article with Tessa Jowell, his Shadow Cabinet colleague at the time, Mr Miliband said: "Owned by the British public and paid for directly through the TV licence, it is only right that ordinary members of the public should have a real say in how it is run.

"Under a mutual model, membership of the BBC could be open to everyone who pays the licence fee. Members could have the right to elect representatives to a members’ council that would elect a majority of members of the BBC Trust. This would give licence fee payers a way to a democratic voice in the priorities of the BBC."

• To view the e-petition, visit: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/28826

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