BBC bosses accused of “propaganda” after boasting about how it converted licence fee sceptics after depriving them of radio, television and internet news for nine days.
The BBC has been accused of “propaganda” after publishing an eight-minute-long video and 52-page report detailing how it converted licence fee sceptics after depriving them of radio, television and internet news for nine days.
The corporation said it had persuaded the “great majority” of households that the BBC TV licence fee was value for money, after it removed services as a test.
The research, commissioned by the BBC and conducted by an independent company, saw 70 households volunteer to go without licence fee-funded services for nine days.
Nearly 50 of them were initially in favour of paying nothing and living without the BBC, or paying less than £145.50 a year.
By the end, the report said, all but 16 understand the true value of the BBC and were “now willing to pay the full licence fee”.
Comments from participants detail how much they missed services they had not appreciated fully, with one calling the experience “excruciating”.
The BBC would not disclose how much the study cost to conduct. It included an eight-minute-long video and 52-page report, with 90-minute interviews with each of the 70 households at the beginning and end of the test.
It also saw participants armed with their own portable cameras to record their thoughts several times each day, as well as “No BBC” stickers and posters to adorn their homes.
A spokesman refused to reveal the cost, saying it was “commercially sensitive”. The report has been released ahead of the Edinburgh International TV Festival, which will feature numerous sessions about the future of the BBC.
Executives are keen to emphasise that the debate must now move beyond politicians and the media, and pay attention to what the public think.
In particular, they will focus on how British viewers feel the BBC represents them, and which parts they feel are integral to their everyday lives.
The corporation posted the results of the study online, publicising it on Twitter via their official accounts and
emphasising the value of 40p per day, an old BBC pitch of drilling down £145.50 to a day which is like saying NowTV is only 23p a day which it is.
The first comment on one post, from a member of the public, reads: “Lovely propaganda. Course it wouldn’t be 40p if it wasn’t subsidised by lots of people who don’t want it.”
Another said: “You are seriously having a laugh.”
When the BBC invited members of Twitter to find out what happened when 70 household spent nine days without it, a viewer wondered: “A third of them were happy not to be forced to pay for something they didn’t want?”
The full report includes numerous comments from households which had been convinced of the value of the licence fee after being deprived of services.
One said: “No other company could provide anywhere near that for that amount of money. It’s ludicrous, isn’t it?… I would be expecting to pay more than that really for what we get.”
Others, among the 16 unconvinced households, said: “I didn’t really miss anything at all… I don’t agree with the licence fee.”
The BBC said of the results: “Households missed advert-free radio and TV and said they were unable to find alternatives to BBC news and current affairs programming such as Panorama and Question Time.
“Participants also expressed frustration at not being able to watch BBC sports coverage and ‘high quality’ BBC dramas like The Fall and Peaky Blinders and were unable to find a commercial replacement for Radio 2.”
Nick North, director of BBC Audiences, said: “This rigorous study enabled us to follow a group of UK households through their weekly routine to explore their media habits and to identify those occasions – the big must-see shows or the small moments woven into their daily lives – where they felt a sense of loss without the BBC.
“The results showed overwhelmingly that most people felt they got great value from the BBC when they came to realise the full range and breadth of what we provide – often in quite stark contrast to what they thought in advance of the experiment.”