If the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is to be believed, the TV licence is on its way out.
There will be those who may be viewing her statement with a certain cynicism. It may not be entirely unconnected with the moves by Boris Johnson’s supporters to save his premiership.
It might get the Downing Street parties off some front pages and abolition might certainly appeal to two of Mr Johnson’s core constituencies – the libertarian right and the politically dispossessed who turned to the Conservatives for the first time in 2019.
Licence fee freezes and rises below inflation are nothing new of course.
The TV Licence could almost certainly not be scrapped until 2027 – by which time things may be very different in the political world.
The problem is that for all its imperfections, nobody can come up with a better way to fund a free-to-air public service broadcaster.
There’s no doubt popular BBC programmes and services could attract plenty of advertising. But it would fundamentally affect their character and what about the many other things the BBC does?
Advertisers increasingly look beyond linear TV and the size of the cake would not increase. Advertising on the BBC would probably mean some existing commercial channels closing.
So what about subscription? No doubt many would happily pay a voluntary BBC subscription. But it would destroy the notion that the BBC exists for society as a whole.
A subscription-based BBC would only be interested in its customers and potential customers. It would also potentially mean every Freeview and Freesat viewer having to get new equipment.
The last option is direct government funding out of general taxation. That option really would destroy the BBC’s independence.
The licence fee, for its imperfections, is the least worst way to pay for the BBC.
That does not mean that there should not be a debate about restoring free licences for the over-75s or providing more help to those on low incomes.
It also means the BBC should think carefully about how the licence is marketed. Remember when it was described positively as the unique way the BBC is paid for by the British public?
To some, philosophically, the licence fee is simply a poll tax – a tax on everyone who owns a TV.
That argument only washes when a significant proportion of people who own TVs do not regularly consume BBC services.
But there are some basic points which a campaign can stress.
The BBC belongs to all of us as viewers and listeners – not advertisers or shareholders and not only those of us who would gladly pay as customers.
Some of the most important things the BBC does would be threatened by other forms of funding.
The BBC is a great international brand owned by the people of the UK. The best of its programmes are amongst the best in the world.
And perhaps most simply there is the joy of broadcast services without adverts which are free at the point of use.
Is it time for a modern version of the campaigns run in the 1980s when the fee was last under serious threat?
And, yes, the slogan should be: “The BBC – is 43.5p a day really to much to ask?”
PICTURED: BBC New Broadcasting House, London. COPYRIGHT: The TV Room.