'Veep' Creator Armando Iannucci Calls for BBC Subscription Model

9:50 AM PST 06/03/2014 by Stuart Kemp
Armando Iannucci

The British "creator of funny stuff" said the BBC should stop being afraid of making money on the back of its extensive creative output and replace the current license fee system.

LONDON – Armando Iannucci, the Veep and Alan Patridge co-creator, says the BBC could cash in if it were to introduce a subscription model for homegrown shows.

Iannucci took to Twitter to suggest that the public broadcaster would "make a fortune if it ran as a subscription service abroad," by replacing the current license fee funding model which means all households watching traditional TV must pay must contribute to help finance the public broadcaster.

BBC director general Tony Hall said earlier this year the fee could be somewhat modernized when the BBC and the U.K. government agree on a new charter following its current one that expires at the end of 2016.

But Hall warned that replacing it with a subscription fee would mean maximizing profits and targeting more attractive audiences would be the way the BBC would have to go if it was to lose the license fee.

Iannucci also tweeted that if the BBC axed the license fee in favor of subscription could pay for homegrown programs by "ruthlessly" selling itself abroad.

Iannucci is quoted in The Guardian newspaper that he thinks the BBC, a long-time home and collaborator on his own TV output, is on "cracking form," citing various shows including the Gillian Anderson drama The Fall and The Wrong Mans, co-created, written and starring James Corden, as flying the flag for great British television output.

"Money made from subscriptions abroad would fund even better programs at home and take pressure off falling license fee collection," Iannucci said. "If the international model works, BBC could replace license fee at home with a subscription fee, set lower than current license fee."

He also added that current exemptions would still apply. "So no one would pay more for a subscription than they do now for a TV license," Iannucci said.

"The subscription would give you access to BBC archive too. We'd get a quality service at home, by ruthlessly selling ourselves abroad," he tweeted. "Having lived abroad, I know many people (expats and locals) who would pay to access the BBC abroad (iPlayer PPV access)."

Iannucci took to Twitter after claiming in a London Evening Standard newspaper interview Monday that the license fee model is becoming outmoded as people change the way they watch television.

"The BBC should make a mint from the brand internationally. It needs a new attitude that says it's not filthy to make money," he said.

"As for the license, you have people on laptops saying: 'What is a television?' There will be a subscription model."

He also said the BBC was not as bold as commercial rivals such as HBO, the U.S. home of his political satire Veep.

"HBO is on the side of the creative. It [HBO] is a bit like how the BBC was 10 or 15 years ago when they said, 'Oh yes, we trust you,'" Iannucci told the Standard.

The comedy creator told the Standard he is "optimistic now that, because Sky and Netflix and Amazon and YouTube are putting money in, people who make stuff are realizing there's more than one game in town."

Overseas viewers already pay for BBC programs on the iPlayer with an annual pass for the global iPlayer costing from $87 (£52) a year.

That's less than the $244 (£145.50) license fee charge for which it is currently a criminal offense to not pay.

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