TV licence: Tory MP and Mike Graham call for inquiry
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Lee Anderson, MP for Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, erupted in the House of Commons on Monday in response to the BBC’s report into journalist Martin Bashir. Mr Anderson has said that he has “ripped up” his TV licence fee and suggested the broadcaster should become a subscription service. In an interview with talkRADIO host Mike Graham, the Tory MP said he “loves” the idea of inquiry into the BBC.
Mr Graham said: “I’ve been calling this week for at least a very proper parliamentary inquiry to get the BBC executives in, ask them some tough questions and make sure that they that their jobs are on the line.”
Mr Anderson replied: “I agree. We should decriminalise non-payment of the TV licence.
“I know that there’s a midterm review next week.
“I want this to be debated as well in parliament, love the idea of a committee.
“There is a real passion for this in parliament at the moment, especially the red wall seats.”
He added: “I don’t want to pay for this rubbish anymore.”
It comes as MPs have labelled the BBC “complacent” for its attitude towards declining audiences, with 200,000 people per year cancelling their licence fee and young people switching to Netflix.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also accused the publicly owned broadcaster of having “ducked the hard choices” when it came to shoring up its finances, and branded its plans to raise revenue outside the annual £159 television licence “unambitious”.
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Parliament’s spending watchdog, in a report published on Friday, urged bosses at Broadcasting House – who are in talks with ministers over the future of the licence fee – to “radically re-engineer its offer” in the face of declining audience numbers.
The committee’s BBC Strategic Financial Management report said that in the last half of 2017, 16 to 24-year-olds were spending more time on Netflix than BBC TV and its iPlayer service.
During 2019, the corporation also lost its place as the media provider that youngsters aged six to 15 spent most time with, while licence fee subscribers continue to dwindle, with sales falling by nearly half a million in the past two years, MPs said.
“When giving evidence to us the BBC appeared complacent and unconcerned by the declining time that people spend using its services, or the fact that around 200,000 new households each year choose to opt out of paying for the TV licence,” the MPs said.
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The 18-page report also said the BBC’s plan to make up revenue through commercial sales was “unambitious”.
Commercial returns represent less than 6% of the income the BBC gets from the licence fee, with the broadcaster aiming to increase that by 30% over five years.
PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “We can see the BBC might be reticent to share detailed plans at this delicate moment, in the middle of licence fee negotiations, but we expected a clearer vision of how it will address the decline in its audiences and revenues, and manage the global transition from traditional TV viewing to online.
“The BBC has enjoyed a truly unique position of privilege and trust, it should have been capitalising on the cosy buffer of its guaranteed income from taxpayers.
“Moving bits of this Titanic organisation around the country, reorganising the deckchairs, just won’t cut it in the face of intense and rapidly changing global competition. The BBC needs to radically re-engineer its offer.”
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