Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has said the BBC ‘should find another way’ to fund itself, as he predicted the end of TV license fees ‘within our lifetimes’.
The former cabinet minister, who held the culture file in David Cameron’s government, said it would be “difficult to continue to justify why everyone should have to pay a license fee” for the programs of the BBC.
However, the MP for Maldon added that he did not expect any changes to come in the next 10 years.
Nadine Dorries, the current Culture Secretary, has suggested that BBC license fees will be abolished beyond the end of 2027 – when a new regulation is due.
She froze the annual levy at its current level of £159 a year for the next two years – it will then increase in line with inflation for the next four years – and said she wanted a discussion on a ‘future model funding” for the broadcaster.
However, Mr Whittingdale played down the prospect of license fees being scrapped in time for the next regulation in 2027.
Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale claimed it would be ‘difficult to continue to justify why everyone should be forced to pay fees’ for BBC programs
License fees have been frozen at their current level of £159 a year for the next two years – then they will rise in line with inflation for the next four years.
The government wants a discussion on a “future funding model” for the BBC. Nadine Dorries, the current Culture Secretary, has suggested licensing fees will be abolished beyond the end of 2027
Speaking to Gloria De Piero on GB News, he 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 then, or even then.
“I think, 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 television antenna.
“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 those options become feasible over time, but it will take a bit longer.”
Mr Whittingdale, the long-serving former chairman of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, described the BBC as “an absolutely central pillar of the broadcasting establishment”.
But he pointed out that the royalty model “has many flaws”.
“It’s a flat charge with no support available, everyone has to pay for it,” he said.
“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, Mr Whittingdale added: “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 continue to justify why everyone should have to pay a royalty for this. Over time, I think that may have to change.
“It will take time, and I mean the answer to your question is probably not 10 years from now, but ultimately I think we’ll have to find another way, because the way people consume television changes if 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’.
BBC bosses have warned the license fee freeze will leave them with an annual revenue shortfall of £285million by 2027-28.