BBC licence fee snub: Rug pulled from under Nadine Dorriess plans – levy poised to remain

Nadine Dorries talks future of public service broadcasting

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Julian Knight, Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport( DCMS) select committee gave a gloomy forecast for the prospect of reform when speaking to Express.co.uk, saying ministers were to blame. He warned the licence fee could still be in existence in 30 years’ time due to the failure to rapidly roll out gigabit broadband across the UK.

The Solihull MP said “the buck stops” with Ms Dorries and a failure to meet the target of all households having gigabit broadband by 2025 meant there was no chance of a change in the funding model.

His downbeat assessment comes just days after Ms Dorries told Mr Knight’s committee that the future of the licence fee was “up for review”.

She told MPs on the DCMS committee “there are huge changes coming” down the line and public service broadcasting would need to adapt to compete with streaming services like Netflix.

The licence fee is guaranteed until 2027 under the Royal Charter that sets out the BBC’s remit.

However, discussions will begin in just a few years time on whether the model should be repeated for the next 10 year period when the charter is reviewed.

The Culture Secretary said on Tuesday: “My overarching view is public service broadcasting in the future in the changing digital landscape that we’re in at the moment is up for review.

“We don’t have an opportunity to look at the future of BBC broadcasting until 2027 when the Charter comes up for renewal, although the discussions will take place before then.

“So, I think between now and then, between now and 2027, there will be that landscape that we talk about that we can’t see at the moment.”

She added she was hopeful the 2025 target, which the Government has previously admitted it will not hit, could still be within reach.

The minister said it was her “ambition” to get gigabit into all homes as quickly as possible.

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She told the committee: “We were on nine percent gigabit rollout two years ago.

“We’re now past the 60 percent mark, as of last Monday, we’re now moving very fast.”

But with the target no longer officially Government policy, Mr Knight said there was no chance of the licence fee being replaced.

He said: “It’s completely for the birds.

“There is no chance of them achieving 100 percent and it’s not a target they’ve got.

“They renamed on that target quite clearly, which is a manifesto pledge.

“As a result, they have stopped any possibility of the licence fee even being phased out over the next decade.

“I’m afraid, no matter how much the Secretary of State may talk about an ambition, ultimately the buck stops with her.

“It is basically her Department and the Treasury that means we will be paying the licence fee in 10 and maybe even 20 or 30 years to come.”

The DCMS select committee published a report earlier this year on the future of the licence fee that said the failure on broadband meant there was no viable alternative form of funding.

At the time the broadcaster said: “We welcome the conclusion that the licence fee is the best way of funding a universal BBC.”

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