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I froze the licence fee. Now Rishi MUST go further...

DOES anyone else have two types of potatoes with their Christmas dinner? We have roast spuds and we have mashed, too. I know: It’s mad. You wouldn’t have two types of sprouts, would you? I think my Irish heritage may be a factor. Incidentally, I’ve been told there’s a potato called Nadine. It has good ‘scab resistance’ apparently, but is described as ‘waxy and wet’. No chance of it gracing my table, as roastie or mash, this Christmas!

THE BBC announced last week that it was to slash staff levels on its longrunning, flagship current affairs show Newsnight (from 57 to 23).

it will shave ten minutes off the running schedule, and focus on studio-based debates.

The biggest shock to me, and i imagine many others, was that Newsnight had 57 staff members! Will the dwindling numbers who watch even notice their departure? i doubt it.

The more important question is this: is it right that a programme long in decline with an audience of less than 300,000 was permitted a reported budget of some £13 million?

According to the Corporation’s News CeO, Deborah Turness, the impact of inflation and a frozen licence fee means that the BBC is facing a £500 million funding hole, and the news division had to ‘carry its share’.

rishi sunak is likely to block next year’s expected hike in the licence fee following a two-year freeze (at £159) — imposed by yours truly while serving as Culture secretary — for a more moderate figure.

When i introduced the freeze, the agreement was that the licence fee would rise in line with inflation for the final three years leading up to the royal Charter renewal in 2027. however, at the time no one could have predicted that Putin would invade ukraine, that world energy and wheat prices would rise dramatically along with global interest rates — and inflation.

if the licence fee rises in line with the consumer prices index (9 per cent to september 2023) as per the agreement, that will add nearly £15 to the fee next year, taking it to £173.30 — the biggest increase in 40 years. hence the PM telling the Beeb to cut costs and the suggestion that ministers will intervene to limit a rise in the licence fee. But, will they?

in my view there should be no discussion around any increase in the licence fee. since it was frozen almost two years ago, it’s amazing how the BBC has managed to implement efficiency-saving cuts — Newsnight is a case in point. But it still has a long way to go to become more competitive in the broadcasting marketplace without relying on taxpayers struggling to make ends meet.

The BBC spends more than £600,000 of taxpayers’ money on staff responsible for ‘diversity and inclusion’ and funds niche channels that few people watch or listen to. On top of that it pursues a Leftist agenda in its reporting and still refuses to call hamas terrorists.

NO WONDER the number of people refusing to buy a licence rose by half a million last year. And as more of us access television online via streaming services — for which we don’t require a licence — that number will only increase.

My licence- fee freeze was intended as a stop-gap measure, while we undertook a review of how the BBC was funded in order to find a fairer way of paying for the service and finally end what is a regressive tax.

i made no secret of my desire to abolish it — yet not only the Leftwing Press, but many Tory and Labour MPs, the Treasury and the majority of Ministers around the Cabinet table came out in force against me. The most resistant was the now Prime Minister himself.

i asked myself, is the battle worth it? And, of course, the answer was yes. The week i resigned, the review of the licence fee was ready to launch. sadly it has been kicked into the long grass.

it would take four years to transition to a new funding model and i fear the delay means it is almost certain the licence fee is here to stay.

Lucy Frazer, now Culture secretary, should take up the baton and commit to finding a fairer funding model that doesn’t ask citizens to pay for an increasingly woke organisation which is out of step with the values of those it purports to serve.

she will face stiff opposition, including from No 10. she is going to need to dig deep and remember who she represents.

if the British public are happy to pay for Netflix on subscription, then give them the option to pay for the BBC similarly. There are other models out there to explore, too. That way the power is in the hands of the consumer. Over to you, Lucy. Make it happen.





dmg media (UK)