Business News

Minister plays down reports of radical government plans for BBC

By | Published on Monday 17 February 2020


A cabinet minister has played down reports in the Sunday Times that the UK government has already decided that it wants to axe the television licence and force the BBC to radically downsize as part of upcoming reviews regarding the way the broadcaster is funded.

It’s no secret that some of the BBC’s biggest foes in the political community are now in positions of power and that could make reviews of the Corporation’s royal charter in 2022 and 2027 somewhat tense. The Times said that Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson was “really strident” about the need for radical reform at the BBC, quoting a source who said “we will whack it”.

Among reforms being seriously considered, the newspaper’s source added, was axing the compulsory licence fee and shifting the BBC over to a subscription system; forcing the Corporation to sell off many of its radio stations to the commercial sector; and cutting back on the number of TV channels and the scale of the BBC website.

The Times report also said that ministers would try and stop BBC stars and execs from pursuing fee-paying projects outside of their work for the broadcaster.

“It’s an outrage that people who make their profile at public expense should seek to give themselves further financial rewards and personal gain”, the source said. Which presumably means Johnson will be returning all the dosh he has received from the Telegraph newspaper writing nonsense columns while also taking tax-payer funded salaries as an MP and minister.

However, in an interview with Sky News, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said everyone should be “pretty cautious of some unattributed comments” about the future of the BBC. He added that while a consultation was under way looking into decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee, there were no “preordained” decisions on future funding models.

He went on: “The BBC is a much loved national treasure. We all want it to be a huge success. But everybody, including the BBC themselves, recognises that in a changing world the BBC itself will have to change. But it is simply not the case that there is some preordained decision about the future funding of the BBC out there. The charter runs to 2027 so there is long way to go on all these decisions”.