UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorres has signalled that an announcement due this week on a new BBC Licence Fee settlement is likely to be the last.
A two-year freeze in the current £159 fee is due to be put forward as part of a series of crowd-pleasing measures designed to shore up embattled prime minister Boris Johnson.
After 2024 it is expected that the fee will rise slightly, before being dropped in favour of an as yet undecided funding model.
This licence fee announcement will be the last. The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors, are over.
Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content. https://t.co/sXtK25q27H
— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) January 16, 2022
Dorries said: “This licence fee announcement will be the last. The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors are over. Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting, and selling great British content.”
Possible options include part-privatisation, along the lines of Channel 4, a government grant, or a direct subscription model. However, any change will take place only after the next General Election that will need to be held by May 2024 at the latest.
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of the Licence Fee were abandoned in January 2021.
Ampere Analysis research director Richard Broughton said there are now three big possible changes on the horizon; a change to BBC funding; the sale of C4 and a change to EU content quota rules and whether UK titles contribute. “Individually, any one of these could be bad for the UK production sector and the jobs it supports. Occurring in quick succession could be a perfect storm,” he said. Ironically, this all undermines levelling up and the agenda of pushing for representation of British values on TV.”
Since the Conservatives first regained power, as part of David Cameron’s 2010 coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the BBC has faced a series of reductions in the Licence Fee. These include being forced to take on the cost of a free Licence Fee for the over 75s, a measure that received government criticism when the BBC later withdrew it and taking on the funding of BBC World Service previously settled by a foreign office grant.
Last March, a report by the DCMS Committee concluded the Government had left itself with no option on the licence fee, largely because of a lack of infrastructure to facilitate other funding mechanisms.