Portillo delivers brutal assessment of BBC programming: ‘None of it is public service!’

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The Government opening of a consultation on whether to decriminalise TV licence evasion has sparked fear in the BBC that this could lead to the destruction of the organisation’s funding model. At the moment it costs £157.50 a year for a colour licence, and failure to pay is a criminal offence which results in a penalty of up to £1,000 and can even land dodgers in jail. Former shadow chancellor, Michael Portillo debated whether the BBC’s role in the nation had drastically changed, and therefore the need for it, on his Times Radio show.

He said: “Can we just examine the extent to which the BBC does provide public service broadcasting at the moment?

“We’re about to go into a period where it would normally be the Proms, which can’t happen because of the pandemic.

“So instead they are going to show some repeats on BBC 4, the television station.

“I scanned the schedules and I don’t see anything really on BBC television today that I would describe as public service broadcasting.”

Mr Portillo added: “I think you can make the claim for Radio 4 and Radio 3.

“But even then, Radio 3 now faces competition from Classic FM, Radio 4 faces competition from Times Radio.

“You can have serious discussion without a licence fee.

“Is the BBC still fulfilling a public service obligation right now?”

A survey of 1000 people taken just before Christmas was conducted by the opinion research company, Public First.

74 percent of people agreed that the BBC licence fee should be abolished, and it was highest amongst the youngest of the group.

The BBC has come under fire many times, especially in recent years, for perceived bias against various political parties.

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As a public service broadcaster, the BBC has said it is “committed to achieving due impartiality in all output”.

A BBC spokesperson said: “As we’ve said before, the licence fee ensures a universal BBC which serves everyone, is the most popular funding system among the public and is agreed as the method of funding the BBC for another 8 years.”

Ministers have agreed the licence fee will stay in place until at least 2027, when the BBC’s Royal Charter ends.

It is set to rise in line with inflation until 2022.

Licence fee income was worth £3.6bn to the BBC in 2018-9. This accounts for approximately 75 percent of the broadcaster’s revenues and funding TV, radio and online content.

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