TELEVISION viewers must be prepared to pay a higher licence fee if public service broadcasters like RTE are to have a future, former BBC director general Greg Dyke said in Dublin yesterday.
In an ever-changing media marketplace, this was the only way in which publicly funded broadcasters would be able to continue making programmes of substance and relevance to their national audiences, Mr Dyke said during a talk on the future of television organised by TAM Ireland.
Having such quality programming "matters a lot to society", he said, and he regretted the fact that the licence fee in Britain had been frozen for six years, entailing a decline in the BBC's actual spending powers toward the end of that period.
The current fee is £145.50 (€182) a year, while the fee here is €160.
The nationwide switchover to digital terrestrial television had been a success in Britain, he said, though it might prove to be just a "transitory technology" and the internet's global reach would probably "change the whole game again -- things we think impossible today are going to happen within a few years".
In an ever-developing media world, viewers would pay to watch particular programmes and events without having to sign a subscription to pay channels, he predicted.
And he outlined a future where, in the manner of practices by giant supermarket chains, broadcasters would know what viewers watched and for how long and would thus be able to build up a profile of any viewing family's preferences and dislikes.
In civil rights terms he thought this "a bit scary".
In a truly global communications world, he predicted that political pressure on broadcasters would lessen "because state power will decline", but that marketing of programmes would increasingly influence what was being watched and thus "great content in itself won't be enough" to attract viewers.
Because of the speed of technological developments, "dramatic change" was likely in the coming decades.
"You've got to take risks and try things," he said.
But nothing could replace a public broadcaster's crucial role, and he instanced the BBC's recent coverage of the Olympics.
"That was about communality and universality," he said.
"That's what the BBC stands for."