BBC responds to speculation that license fee could be scrapped

The BBC has responded to a media report that the British government is preparing to freeze the BBC license fee at £159 for two years and eventually scrap it entirely. “Given ...
January 17, 2022

The BBC has responded to a media report that the British government is preparing to freeze the BBC license fee at £159 for two years and eventually scrap it entirely.

“Given the breadth of services we provide, the Licence Fee represents excellent value for money. There are very good reasons for investing in what the BBC can do for the British public and the UK around the world,” said BBC chairman Richard Sharp and director-general Tim Davie (pictured) in a joint statement on Monday (Jan. 17).

“A freeze in the first two years of this settlement means the BBC will now have to absorb inflation. That is disappointing — not just for Licence Fee payers, but also for the cultural industries that rely on the BBC for the important work they do across the UK,” the statement continues. “The BBC’s income for UK services is already 30 per cent lower in real terms than it was 10 years ago. We will set out the implications of the settlement later, before the end of the financial year, but it will necessitate tougher choices which will impact Licence Fee payers.”

Funds raised from the fee pay for BBC shows and services such as TV, radio, the BBC website, podcasts, iPlayer and apps. The licensing fee brings the British pubcaster more than £3 billion annually and is its main source of income.

The fee is guaranteed until at least the end of 2027 by the BBC’s royal charter, which sets out the broadcaster’s funding and purpose. The annual fee is set by the government, which announced in 2016 that it would rise in line with inflation for five years from April 2017.

Negotiations have already taken place between BBC brass and the government over a future funding settlement. The idea of freezing the license fee was discussed in October of 2021.

British Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries made waves on the weekend when she said the next announcement about the license fee will be the last, and that it was time to discuss new ways to fund and sell “great British content.”

On January 16, Dorries shared on social media a Daily Mail article in which someone described as her “ally” told the paper “the days of state-run television are over.”

“This licence fee announcement will be the last,” Dorries tweeted as she shared the Daily Mail article with her followers.

“We have great faith in the BBC and its future,” Monday’s statement from BBC leadership reads. “We actively look forward to the national debate on the next Charter and, of course, all options should be considered. The BBC is owned by the public and their voice must always be the loudest when it comes to determining the BBC’s future.”

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.