The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci thinks the BBC should switch to subscriptions. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

"It’s not filthy to make money" Armando Iannucci tells BBC to replace licence fee with subscriptions

The creator of The Thick of It Armando Iannucci is calling for the BBC to adopt a subscription model for people with laptops asking "what is a television?"

Alan Partridge, The Thick of It and Veep creator Armando Iannucci calls for the BBC to adopt a new subscription model in order to make more money.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, he suggested that subscriptions are the future for the BBC, dismissing the licence fee as something irrelevant to online television viewers:

The BBC should make a mint from the brand internationally. It needs a new attitude that says it’s not filthy to make money. As for the licence, you have people on laptops saying: ‘What is a television?’ There will be a subscription model.

Having been asked to clarify his idea, he has just this morning written a series of tweets outlining his proposal:

The BBC would make a fortune if it ran as a subscription service abroad. It's revered across the world, and rightly so.

It's also on cracking form. 'In The Flesh', 'The Wrong Mans', 'The Fall', etc, are part of a world class output.

Money made from subscriptions abroad would fund even better programmes at home and take pressure off falling license fee collection.

If the international model works, BBC could replace license fee at home with a subscription fee, set lower than current license fee.

Current exemptions would still apply. So no one would pay more for a subscription than they do now for a TV license.

The subscription would give you access to BBC archive too. We'd get a quality service at home, by ruthlessly selling ourselves abroad.

And he concluded his radical rethink of the BBC's business model thus:

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.