Culture secretary

Government signals ‘the end of the BBC as we know it’ – shadow culture secretary

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said the government was signaling ‘the end of the BBC as we know it’ in a ‘pathetic’ attempt to distract from Boris Johnson’s struggles over Downing Street parties .

he said the £159 licensing fee was “unbelievably cheap” and slammed Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries for making an announcement on Twitter as part of a Tory government plan to offer red meat to their backbenchers”.

Ms Powell’s comments come after Ms Dorries said at the weekend that the BBC’s next license fee announcement ‘will be the last’, and indicated she wanted to find a new funding model for the BBC after the licensing fee funding agreement expires in 2027. .

She tweeted: “This licensing fee announcement will be our last. Gone are the days when the elderly were threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocked on doors. Now is the time to discuss and debate new ways to fund, support and sell great UK content.

Various reports indicate that Ms Dorries is set to announce later this week that licensing fees will be maintained at the current rate of £159 until April 2024. The Telegraph also reports that a ‘new funding model’ is expected to be found by now 2027 when the Royal Charter is up for renewal.

Ms Powell told Times Radio: ‘We just have to recognize what we get for this payment – which is actually incredibly cheap, even when you compare it to many commercial competitors – what you get as value, because that we all pay in small amounts, which the BBC is able to do.

“Let’s not forget that this so-called announcement, which was on Twitter yesterday, which is effectively the end of the BBC as we know it, a huge political announcement, is nothing more than a really obvious distraction and pathos of a Prime Minister and a government that has broken down and whose leadership is hanging by a thread.

She acknowledged licensing fees weren’t a perfect solution – “you wouldn’t necessarily start with this if we didn’t have it now” – but said countries around the world were looking at the “mix of models that we have in this country”. for broadcasting funding.

The annual BBC license payment normally changes on 1 April each year and is set by the government, which announced in 2016 that it would increase in line with inflation for five years from 1 April 2017. It would amount to approximately £3.2 billion for the BBC.

The company has previously come under fire for scrapping free TV licenses for everyone over 75, with a grace period on payment due to the Covid-19 pandemic ending on July 31.

Only those who benefit from a pension credit do not have to pay the annual sum.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the BBC is “something we need to make sure we continue to support and protect”.

The Cabinet Minister said it was ‘absolutely right to celebrate what the BBC is doing around the world, the soft power behind the BBC is something we need to make sure we continue to support and protect’.

Mr Zahawi told the Today program that negotiations between Ms Dorries and the broadcaster were “ongoing”.

He said: “The Secretary of State will make a statement on this. I can tell you, because (BBC Director General) Tim Davie came to see me when I got the job of Secretary of State for Education, the work that we do … that the BBC does on the Education is incredibly valuable.

“But we also have to recognize that in fact the way people consume media today is very different from how it was five years ago, and part of that is proper adult conversation about how the BBC is funded beyond this regulation. .”

A BBC source told the PA news agency: “There has been similar speculation before. There are very good reasons to invest in what the BBC can do for the UK public, the creative industries and the UK worldwide.Anything less than inflation would put an unacceptable strain on the BBC’s finances after years of cuts.

Following the reports, celebrities including Matt Lucas and BBC presenter Dan Walker took to social media to defend the company.

Lucas tweeted: ‘The BBC has many strengths and many weaknesses but I suspect this government wants to get rid of them as they hold them accountable’, while Walker said: ‘I am well aware that the BBC is making mistakes and must change but the media landscape would be much poorer without it.These 3 letters are trusted and respected around the world.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has also been contacted for comment.