Perhaps most comparable to the UK, Australia has the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which in addition to its television production operates 54 local radio stations, four national radio stations, a selection of radio stations in online only and the international radio service Radio Australia. It is directly financed by the government from general taxation.
Even business-oriented America knows the value of subsidized public radio that responds to listeners, not profits. NPR relies on direct federal funding supplemented by regular giving campaigns, sponsorship spots, and money donated by universities. American Public Radio produces some of the best radio in the world, especially the influential This American Life and Radiolab, as well as independent journalism and live broadcasts of classical music, opera and Shakespeare. NPR even airs content from the World Service as part of a deal with the BBC.
It’s now easy enough to imagine a world without BBC TV, but much harder to accept the idea of saying goodbye to state-funded radio. If we got rid of the TV license, we would urgently need to think of a new way to bring our radio landscape to life. The rest of the world sees the value of good public radio, and the British forget its value at our peril. The cultural life of the UK would be seriously impoverished without a radio that reaches everyone and brings the voice of community and culture to every home. Regardless of how we pay for our radio, we must fight for its sustainability.