BBC Licence Fee Could Be Cut Under Tory Plans

The BBC licence fee could be cut signals Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

“I think that’s the discussion that we need to have. The BBC should not interpret the fact that we haven’t said anything about the way licence fee payers funds are used as an indication that we are happy about it. We will be having very tough discussions.” – Jeremy Hunt in The Daily Telegraph

The future of the BBC is once again looking bleak as many feared it would do if the Conservatives come to power. They may have had to sign up the Liberal Democrats (who are traditionally more pro-BBC) to make up the numbers but now the Tories are in power they are turning their attention towards the BBC – and its licence fee. The way the BBC is funded, through the licence fee, was suspected to be on a possible Tory hit list before the election with the party reportedly considering funding the corporation through other means. Now in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Hunt has signalled that the licence fee could indeed be scrapped. When asked about the licence fee Mr Hunt said

If the fee isn’t scrapped it certainly could be lowered with Hunt also indicating the Con-Dem government would like to see the current £145 fee reduced. Hunt also said that at a time when government departments were having to cut budgets by 25% – possibly raising to 40% shortly – the BBC needed to make tough decisions about its own operations and budgets. The corporation has been criticised in the past for wasting tax payers money with the Salford development being particularly criticised. It was announced this week that BBC Breakfast would move to the Salford media village. Meanwhile the BBC’s decision to move production of Casualty from Bristol to Cardiff – for which a new studio is being built to accommodate Casualty, Doctor Who ect – has also been widely criticised.

“The BBC will have to make tough decisions like everyone else. There are huge numbers of things that need to be changed at the BBC. They need to demonstrate the very constrained financial situation we are now in. All the concerns I had in opposition about executive salaries and use of licence fee funds for things many people thought were extraordinary or outrageous – that (next year) will be moment when I express them.” – Jeremy Hunt in The Daily Telegraph

Earlier this year the BBC revealed proposals to cut back its presence in several areas with spending on its internet sites to be cut by 25%, the closure of teen services Blast & Switch, cutting overseas acquisitions and proposing the closure of BBC 6 Music and the BBC Asian Network. The proposals met with wide-spread anger and the BBC were accused of trying to appease a future Tory Government and its Murdoc allies. The proposals have now mostly been accepted by the BBC Trust with the exception of BBC 6 Music which will not close due to a high profile campaign to save it.

The salary of high-profile stars such as Jonathan Ross, Terry Wogan and Graham Norton could also be revealed to the public after years of pressure by the media. The press have long since desired the BBC to reveal what it pays its stars but so far the corporation has resisted the move – until now. In recent months it has indicated it will publish the information but the news comes following the departures of big stars such as Adrian Chiles, Christine Bleakley and Jonathan Ross.

In the run up to the General Election there was great concern about the future of the BBC expressed by some within the industry. Lead writers on Doctor Who; Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat both spoke openly against the Tories while actors David Tennant and Peter Davison also criticised the party. A letter signed by 100 actors defended the BBC against Tory criticism and was signed by, to name by a few, Catherine Tate, Peter Kay, Meera Syal, Tony Robinson, Ashley Jensen, Roger Lloyd Pack and Hugh Bonneville.