Published: Wed, December 11, 2019
Life&Culture | By Sue Mclaughlin

Boris ‘looking at’ abolishing TV licence fee

Boris ‘looking at’ abolishing TV licence fee

That man who's living the dream of being the UK's prime minister at the moment has suggested that a future government may end the licence fee model used to pay for the BBC, with Boris Johnson pondering on if it "makes sense" for the BBC to continue to enjoy its unique funding arrangement.

"But, at this stage, we are not planning on getting rid of all license fees, though I'm certainly looking at it".

"I think that the system of funding by what is effectively a general tax, isn't it, everybody has a TV, it bears reflection â€" let me put it that way. "How long can you justify a system whereby everybody who has a TV has to pay for a particular segment of TV - that is the question". That is the question'.

The BBC had agreed in 2015 to accept responsibility for funding over-75s' free television licence which had before been covered by the government.

Johnson will not be able to get his hands on the BBC's funding model until 2027, however, given the corporation's operating agreement, known as its royal charter, is only reviewed once a decade.

"Well, I don't think at this late stage in the campaign I'm going to make an unfunded spending commitment like that, but what I certainly think is that the BBC should cough up and pay for the licences for the over-75s as they promised to do", he replied.

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The British government is considering decriminalising non-payment of the BBC's licence fee. The BBC's decision to withdraw free licence fees for over-75s was met with criticism from figures inside the government, though the broadcaster pointed out that it had been forced to shoulder the cost of the benefit as part of a wider funding settlement.

Prime Minister Johnson made the comments during a rally in Sunderland on Monday, saying he was "certainly looking at it".

"I think the licence fee needs to be argued". "It would be very, very different to the sort of BBC you have now, because you would be giving subscribers what they want, not the breadth of the population".

Sam Packer, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Boris is right to see the way the wind is blowing and look at axing the TV tax".

BBC Group income in 2018/19 was 4.9 billion pounds, with overall income for BBC Public Service Broadcasting of just over 4 billion pounds, of which more than 90% came from the license fee - which was initially introduced just after the BBC's birth 97 years ago to cover radio sets.

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