UK state-owned broadcaster, the BBC, has never carried paid advertising in its eighty-one years of existence – and that’s the way the majority of Britons want it to remain, reports a new study released this week by research publisher Key Note.

Women even more than men are opposed to advertising on the BBC’s radio and TV channels – while even among the 24-35 age segment most favoured by advertisers, a mere 9% opted for the carrying of ads. Surprisingly, the 45-54 age group were least opposed to the concept.

The acceptance of advertising by the publicly-owned corporation, whose main BBC1 channel outguns all other TV rivals in terms of audience share, is a hot and controversial topic at present, as the BBC moves toward a renewal of its Royal Charter in 2006.

There has been intensified pressure of late by rightist political opponents, lobby groups and other interested parties – including advertisers – to reduce or scrap the BBC’s annual licence fee – currently £116 ($183.91; €165.58) – from which the majority of its income derives.

The government recently launched a review of the charter under which the BBC operates, and continuation of the fee system beyond 2006 is by no means certain.

Many believe the Blair administration, currently embroiled in bitter conflict with the BBC over its scepticism at the intelligence dossier used to justify the war on Iraq, would welcome an opportunity to strike back at the BBC.

With regard to TV advertising in general, the Key Note report found that women are more likely than men to fast forward through ad breaks while watching recorded programmes. The report attributes this to women’s feeling that advertisers target them more than men.

Households in the AB demographic said they record programmes to deliberately avoid ads. Conversely, half the 15-24 age group sampled think advertising is ‘a good way of finding out about new products’. Within this group, 42% claimed to have bought something in the last six months as a result of seeing an ad; and 32% of 25- to 34-year-olds professed likewise.

Some 30% of respondents believed ads were ‘entertaining’, whilst a patriotic 25% thought ads made in the UK were of better quality than those produced abroad.

The research was conducted for Key Note by BMRB between May 15-21 among a representative sample of 993 adults.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff