Culture minister suggests TV licence losing support among public

The BBC licence fee is losing support among the public, a culture minister has claimed, amid calls to drop the “poll tax on propaganda”.

Conservative frontbencher Julia Lopez also noted that the corporation’s impartiality is important in relation to the future of the licence fee.

Her remarks came as DUP MP Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) criticised the BBC’s handling of Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker over his comments on Twitter about the Government’s immigration policy.

Mr Wilson told the House of Commons: “The only disaster this weekend has been for the BBC in the despicable way it handled the Gary Lineker affair and then caved in to this man and his friends who rallied around him.”

He added: “The BBC has shown once again it’s impossible, because of the bias inherent in it, to be impartial and it is now time that people are no longer forced to finance the BBC through the licence fee, especially when every week 1,000 people are taken to court by the BBC – 70% of them women – for refusing to pay this poll tax on propaganda.”

Ms Lopez said: “(Mr Wilson) is right to highlight the importance of impartiality to the trust in which licence fee-payers hold the organisation and the importance in relation to the future of the licence fee.

“It’s something we’re considering, not least because there are fewer people paying the licence fee.

“We’re concerned the public is losing support for the licence fee, but also fundamentally the way in which people consume television is changing very rapidly and we need to make sure the BBC has a future that is sustainable in the years ahead.”

It costs £159 per year annually for a colour TV licence and £53.50 for a black and white TV licence.

Tory former culture secretary Nadine Dorries announced last year that the licence fee would be frozen at £159 for the next two years until April 2024, saying she wanted to find a new funding model before the current deal expires in 2027 as it is “completely outdated”.

Conservative MP Scott Benton (Blackpool South) said: “The self-inflicted chaos of the last few days in their apparent unwillingness to enforce their own impartiality rules has frankly made a laughing stock of the BBC.

“It is clear that it is now grossly overpaid sports presenters rather than executives who are truly calling the shots.

“Many of my constituents have long regarded the BBC licence fee as a regressive, decades-old, out-of-date tax. Isn’t it time we had a grown-up conversation about its future?”

Ms Lopez said questions about the licence fee are questions “we will be examining in advance of the next charter in 2027”.

She said: “As I mentioned previously, this is not just a question of whether the licence fee still has support, (it) is a question about whether it’s sustainable as the way in which we watch media changes fundamentally and we need to make sure that the BBC can keep up and maintain the consent of those who watch its services.”