Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has said he expects to see the end of BBC licensing fees “in our lifetime”. However, the Tory MP added that he does not believe it will be possible to scrap the fee in time for the next license fee settlement in 2027.
Current Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries previously announced fees would be frozen for the next two years and said she wanted to find a new funding model for the broadcaster after the current deal expires in five years. Speaking to Gloria De Piero on GB News, Mr Whittingdale said: ‘The government originally said the other day that this would be the final license fee settlement. The licensing fee settlement runs until 2027.
“I don’t think it will be possible to change it before, or even then. I think that, to begin with, we will have to have moved to a world in which everyone receives their television via the Internet, for example, rather than via a TV antenna.
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“Because once that happens, you can adopt models like Netflix or Amazon or the other streamers, and actually have a subscription – and that’s just not possible now. So these options become feasible over time, but it will take a bit longer.
Mr Whittingdale said he continued to see the BBC as ‘an absolutely central pillar of the broadcasting establishment’, but felt the license fee model ‘has many flaws’. He added: “It’s a flat charge with no support available, everyone has to pay for it. And, you know, there are a lot of people now who, for the first time, are starting to say, “Wait, I don’t watch the BBC.”
“You now have a lot of really good entertainment available elsewhere from streamers, as well as commercial broadcasters, you have other news providers growing, which is great.” Asked if he thought the license fee would last beyond his lifetime, he continued: ‘I wouldn’t want to see the BBC go at all, I think there will always be a role for the BBC.
“But I think it’s hard to keep justifying why everyone should have to pay a royalty for this. Over time, I think that may have to change. It’s going to take time, and I mean that the answer to your question is probably not 10 years from now, but ultimately I think we’ll have to find another way, simply because the way people consume television is changing so rapidly.
“It’s really the case now that people will say, ‘Wait, I don’t need the BBC and so I’m not sure why I should have to pay for it’.” The fee is currently set to remain frozen at its current price of £159 for two years and will then rise in line with inflation for the next four years.
BBC bosses have warned the license fee freeze will leave them with an annual revenue shortfall of £285m by 2027-28. The full interview will air at 12.35pm Thursday on GB News.