BBC denies it considered scrapping licence fee

Mar 9, 2014

Corporation’s own review panel reportedly said compulsory charge should be scrapped in 2020

HAS THE BBC considered scrapping the licence fee in six years’ time and turning itself into a subscription service?

The Sunday Times reports that the broadcaster assembled 12 of the UK’s most influential economists, consultants and academics to work on its ‘centenary review panel’ last summer.

The majority of the panel - established by James Purnell, the BBC director of strategy and digital, to provide an outsiders’ opinion on the BBC - reportedly believed that the broadcaster should become a subscription service in 2020.

The BBC is currently in full cost-cutting mode, because of an agreement made in 2010 to freeze the licence fee for six years – equivalent to a 16 per cent budget reduction in real terms.

Only last week, it was announced that the youth-oriented channel BBC3 is to be dropped from schedules and be available only through the corporation’s iPlayer streaming service.

However, the BBC quickly moved to deny the story, telling the Sunday Telegraph that although the report exists, it "recommends that the BBC pursue an inflationary licence fee increase with greater commercial revenue. No subscription model is recommended".

The story comes a day after it was reported that more than 100 backbench MPs support changing the offence of non-payment of the licence fee from a criminal offence to a civil offence. Currently, people who watch live TV without paying the £145.50 annual charge face a £1,000 fine. Failure to pay the fine can lead to a jail sentence.

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