Rich should pay more licence fee to watch the BBC, says David Dimbleby

·3-min read
British journalist David Dimbleby appears on the Andre Singer documentary 'Night Will Fall', which researches the making of the German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, 2014.  (Photo by Richard Blanshard/Getty Images)
Veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby has suggested the BBC licence fee could be attached to council tax bands where the wealthier pay a higher rate (Richard Blanshard/Getty Images)

Veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby has suggested that the BBC licence fee should be linked to council tax to make it fairer.

The former Question Time host told BBC Radio 4’s the World At One programme: “The licence fee is something that I absolutely believe in, I don’t think you can have public service broadcasting without paying for it through the public purse in that way.

“But what I do think is the BBC should acknowledge that £159 paid by the poorest as well the richest is just unfair, it’s inequitable."

This week culture secretary, Nadine Dorries announced that the BBC’s licence fee is to be frozen for two years and that a new funding mechanism for the corporation will follow after 2027.

Watch: BBC licence fee to be frozen for two years

However, many saw Dorries' announcement as a diversionary tactic to distract from so-called 'partygate' which has seen Boris Johnson accused of attending a bring-your-own-booze party in the Downing Street garden during lockdown in 2020.

Dimbleby, who fronted the BBC's flagship political debate show every Thursday night from 1994 until 2018, advocated a system whereby wealthier households pay a higher rate for their TV licence, attaching it to the Council Tax band model.

“And there’s a simple way in which the BBC can get on the front foot," he said, "which is by suggesting the licence fee figure, the gross figure of £159, should not be paid flat rate by everybody but the richest should pay more and the poorest less.

"And the simple way of doing it would be to attach an element of the licence fee to the council tax band.”

The licence fee is set by the Government which announced in 2016 that it would rise in line with inflation for five years from April 1 2017.

A police officer stands at the door of the Prime Minister's official residence in Downing Street, Westminster, London, as public anger continues following the leak on Monday of an email from Boris Johnson's principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, inviting 100 Downing Street staff to a
Some have suggested that the licence fee freeze has been announced to divert attention from allegations of parties at Number 10 during lockdown (Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)

BBC stalwart Dimbleby has long been vocal about 'protecting' the BBC and previously denounced the Prime Minister's efforts to intervene in the appointment of BBC Chairman. In 2020 he said he was "horrified" by reports that Johnson wanted to give the job to The Daily Telegraph's ex-editor Charles Moore.

That appointment would have been "a malign intervention," the veteran broadcaster told the BBC's Newscast podcast.

"I think you need someone with a more open mind," he said, citing Moore's newspaper and magazine columns on gay marriage and race.

Moore swiftly confirmed he was not taking the role, but Dimbleby voiced his intention to ward off anyone he felt might not be right to lead the corporation.

"I still might [apply], depending on who comes forward," he said.

"Boris Johnson, we know, wants to bring the BBC to heel. We don't want a chairman who connives in that ambition."

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