TaxPayers’ Alliance calls for Channel 4 and BBC overhaul to save taxpayers a fortune

Embargoed: 00:01 Tuesday 26 October 2021


  • Amid growing discontent with publicly owned broadcasters, the TPA proposes a new model to compete with streaming giants.

  • ​​The campaign group calls for scrapping the licence fee, alongside the sale of Channel 4 and most of the BBC.

  • Research reveals that the sale of BBC shares could increase the tax-free personal allowance by £300.


Ahead of Wednesday’s Budget, the TaxPayers’ Alliance have called for the chancellor to sell Channel 4 and the majority of the BBC. In landmark new research, the campaign group found that a potential sale of BBC shares could generate up to £5 billion for the government, enough to increase the tax-free personal allowance by £300.

As Channel 4’s licence and the BBC’s mid-term reviews approach amid declining viewership and satisfaction rates, the research proposes the sale of Channel 4 and a significantly reduced BBC focused solely on public service output as a viable solution to taxpayer dissatisfaction with the broadcasters.

The paper calls for the licence fee to be scrapped and the BBC to be cut down to one television channel, radio station and online service. The reduced BBC would be funded by a small government grant and only show content in the ‘public interest’, such as the current affairs and cultural programming it was known for when founded.

With the licence fee now being imposed on the over-75s, and covid hitting hard-pressed taxpayers, the public ownership of two broadcasters seems unnecessary. The campaign group is calling on the government to modernise taxpayers’ relationship with the broadcasters, allowing them to compete in the age of streaming while simultaneously providing government revenues to cut taxes.




Key findings:

  • Neither Channel 4 nor the BBC in their current forms fit into the 21st century broadcasting market.

  • The TV licence fee has increased by £13.50 or over nine per cent since 2016.

  • There is no reason for Channel 4 to continue to be in public hands in 2021. Even with its current licence period running to 2024, there are no limitations or timelines preventing the government from selling the corporation or floating it on the stock exchange before this date.

  • The government could privatise Channel 4 through a single issuance of shares, potentially up to £5 billion in revenues.

  • A part privatisation offers the BBC its best chance to continue doing what it does best, without forcing taxpayers to contribute directly to it or see the organisation entirely cut ties with the public sector.
  • The government could receive significantly more than £2 billion if BBC shares were floated at market value.
  • If the BBC were sold for £2 billion then these funds could be used by the government to increase the standard tax-free personal allowance by £300 for potentially three to five years, more than enough to cover the annual subscription fees for Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Netflix.


John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:

“In the age of streaming, it’s ridiculous that we have two publicly-owned broadcasters.

“The chancellor should use the upcoming budget to unshackle these media giants from the taxpayer and let them stand on their own two feet.

"That will benefit not just the public and taxpayers, but the broadcasters themselves.”


TPA spokespeople are available for live and pre-recorded broadcast interviews via 07795 084 113 (no texts)


Media contact:

Danielle Boxall
Media Campaign Manager, TaxPayers' Alliance
[email protected]
24-hour media hotline: 07795 084 113 (no texts)


Notes to editors:

  1. Founded in 2004 by Matthew Elliott and Andrew Allum, the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) campaigns to reform taxes and public services, cut waste and speak up for British taxpayers. Find out more at

  2. TaxPayers' Alliance's advisory council.

  3. The TaxPayers' Alliance launched the Axe the Tax campaign in January 2020, calling for an end to the television licence fee.
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