Bad news for the BBC: The broadcaster is not the United Kingdom’s most trusted news source, and two-thirds of Britons want to change how it’s funded.
A survey released Saturday show that 69% of Brits trust the BBC to deliver impartial and accurate television news. That’s less than the 73% of people who trust rival TV source ITV News, but more than the 55% who place their faith in Comcast-owned broadcaster Sky News.
The survey of more than 2,000 people, which was conducted by Savanta ComRes for the Christian Communications Partnership, also reveals that 67% of respondents support scrapping or substantially reforming the fee system that provides the BBC with most of its funding.
The survey was conducted following a bruising general election campaign in which the BBC faced accusations of bias from both main UK political parties. Election winner Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested he could scrap the license fee that funds the network’s entertainment programs and supports its 2,000 journalists around the world.
The £154.50 ($202) annual fee is paid by all Brits who watch or stream live TV. Last year, the BBC received more than £3.8 billion ($5 billion) from the tax, accounting for about 75% of its budget.
Speaking at a campaign stop before the December 12 vote, Johnson said “you have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach to funding a TV, a media organization still makes sense in the long term.”
Following the election, Treasury official Rishi Sunak confirmed that Johnson had ordered a review of the license fee. One question is whether Brits who fail to pay the fee should continue to face legal action.
“The general election showed that trust is at a premium but also that the BBC no longer has a monopoly on it,” Andrew Hawkins, chairman of polling company Savanta ComRes, said in a statement.
A BBC spokesperson said in response to the survey that research shows that the public values the BBC, and that license fee is the most popular method of funding the BBC.
“This poll appears to have asked people whether they’d like the license fee scrapped or reformed without explaining that would mean losing programmes and services they love,” the spokesperson said.
Who is trusted?
UK broadcasters, which are legally required to remain impartial, have a significant trust advantage over the country’s newspapers.
Some 55% of survey respondents said they are more likely to trust news coverage from broadcasters than websites and newspapers, which are not bound by the same rules. Only 5% said they were less likely to trust broadcasters than websites and newspapers.
More than half of Brits said they trust newspapers “not at all” or “not very much.”
Sixty percent of respondents said television is their number one source of news, with that share rising to 79% of people over 55 years of age.
But younger people have different habits. Only 39% of those aged 18-34 said television was their main source of news, whereas 60% said they get most of their news from social media.
Hawkins said the results point to a “major shake-up” of how news is delivered.
“Somehow the broadcasters and regulators will need to find a way of enabling the sector to evolve while maintaining trust in the integrity of news delivery,” he said.
The online survey of 2,018 adults was conducted between December 18 and December 20.