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At Last: No 10 Tells BBC Licence Fee Will Be Scrapped

The Sunday Times

TV channels face axe in move to subscriptions

Downing Street turned on the BBC last night — vowing to scrap the television licence fee and make viewers pay a subscription. The national broadcaster could also be compelled to downsize and sell off most of its radio stations.

In a plan that would change the face of British broadcasting, senior aides to the prime minister insisted that they are “not bluffing” about changing the BBC’s funding model and “pruning” its reach into people’s homes.

The blueprint being drawn up in government will:

● Scrap the licence fee and replace it with a subscription model

● Force the BBC to sell off the vast majority of its 61 radio stations but safeguard Radio 3 and Radio 4

● Reduce the number of the corporation’s national television channels from its current 10

● Scale back the BBC website

● Invest more in the World Service

● Ban BBC stars from cashing in with lucrative second jobs.

The plan marks a further escalation of hostilities between No 10 and the corporation following speeches last week by Sir David Clementi, the BBC chairman, who launched an outspoken defence of the licence fee.

He argued that a move to a subscription model would mean a loss of earnings for the BBC that would lead to popular programmes being axed and that the introduction of Netflix-style payments could result in the loss of public service programming in a race to attract paying viewers.

Ministers are already consulting on plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee from 2022 and have suggested the compulsory levy could be scrapped by 2027, when the BBC’s charter is set for renewal.

A senior source said: “We are not bluffing on the licence fee. We are having a consultation and we will whack it. It has to be a subscription model. They’ve got hundreds of radio stations, they’ve got all these TV stations and a massive website. The whole thing needs massive pruning back.

“They should have a few TV stations, a couple of radio stations and massively curtailed online presence and put more money and effort into the World Service, which is part of its core job.”

The attack on the BBC will be led by John Whittingdale, the former culture secretary who was reappointed as a minister of state in his old department on Friday.

Full story (£)

see also GWPF coverage of BBC bias & BBC licence fee