BBC to swallow licence fee freeze to buffer cost of living

General Views of BBC Broadcasting House

The BBC is set to swallow a two-year license fee freeze, which could see the broadcaster having to find savings of more than £2bn over the next six years.

Ministers will unveil the plan this week, though it has been reported to be one of a number of announcements being tabled in Downing Street in a bid to pull attention away from Boris Johnson’s party debacle.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries intends to keep the fee flat at £159 for a colour licence until April 2024, which will see the corporation’s funding slashed.  

It is part of “Operation Red Meat”, according to The Times, an array of plans designed to appeal to the Tory backbenchers who can help keep Johnson’s premiership in place.

The licence fee currently pulls £3.2bn into the corporation each year. And would have swelled to £167, in line with inflation – which is now 5.1 per cent – and would have jumped again to £175 after two years at the same rate.

The BBC has already undergone several cost-saving initiatives, including a voluntary redundancy scheme which saw hundreds of staff exit the corporation.

Though the plan forms part of the government’s attempt to ease the cost of living next month, amid rising inflation and an energy crisis.

Johnson had mulled scrapping the fee altogether, looking to increasingly popular streamers, such as Netflix and Disney+ for inspiration.

Netflix’s subscription-based model costs £168 a year, or £13.99 a month for its largest package, while Disney+ costs £79.90 a year at £7.99 a month.

“There are very good reasons for investing in what the BBC can do for the British public and the creative industries, and the [profile of the] UK around the world,” a BBC source told The Times.

“Anything less than inflation would put unacceptable pressure on the BBC finances after years of cuts.”


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