UK culture secretary Nadine Dorries confirms BBC licence fee frozen for two years

UK culture secretary Nadine Dorries has confirmed the BBC licence fee will be frozen for two years and the funding model reviewed.

Ms Dorries praised the state broadcaster as a “great institution” and insisted the changes were about helping families.

She also claimed the BBC wanted the licence fee to rise to £180, but under this plan it will remain at £159 until April 2024.

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The culture secretary said: “The global cost of living is rising and this Government is committed to supporting families as much as possible during these difficult times.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries confirmed the freeze in parliament.

“Given that climate, we had to think very carefully about imposing a potential increase on the TV licence, particularly given that any increase would expose families to the potential threat of bailiffs knocking on their door or criminal prosecution.

“When it comes to monthly bills, this is one of the few direct levers that we have in our control as a government.”

The Labour front bench could be heard shouting “taxes” before Ms Dorries added: “We simply could not justify putting extra pressure on the wallets of hard-working households.

“Every organisation around the world is facing the challenge of inflation. I simply do not believe that those responsible for setting household bills should instinctively reach into the pockets of families across the country for just a little more every year to cover their costs.

“So today I am announcing that the licence fee will be frozen for the next two years and that it will rise in line with inflation for the following four years.”

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The BBC is expected to receive about £3.7 billion in licence fee funding in 2022.

Ms Dorries was also forced to apologise for the leak of her plans for the BBC licence fee after Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle criticised the briefing to the media.

Sir Lindsay said: “Can we make sure in the future it’s done through here (the Commons).

“If it was leaked and you felt you had to respond, Secretary of State, please let us do the leak inquiry because we’ve got a major colander right across Government that I don’t want to see again.”

Ms Dorries replied: “May I personally give you my apologies. I actually refused every invitation for media both yesterday and today.”

Labour claimed the plans were “cultural vandalism” and a “distraction” from Boris Johnson’s “disintegrating leadership”.

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell told MPs: “May I take this opportunity to congratulate the Secretary of State [Nadine Dorries] for coming top of the teacher’s pet list?

“She was the first Cabinet minister to tweet support for the Prime Minister, she was the first to volunteer to do a broadcast round, and now she has been the first to throw up a distraction and finding someone else to blame for the Prime Minister’s disintegrating leadership – the BBC’s reporting, of course.

“The Government claims this is all about the cost-of-living crisis. I mean, pull the other one.

"What is it about the £13.57 a month that marks it out for such immediate and special attention to address the cost of living over the £1,200 increase in energy and household bills, or the £3,000-a-year tax increase that her Government has imposed?

“Is the licence fee really at the heart of the cost-of-living crisis? Or is this really about their long-standing vendetta against the BBC?”

BBC chairman Richard Sharp and director-general Tim Davie described the decision to keep the licence fee at the current rate of £159 until April 2024 as “disappointing”.

They said in a statement: “Given the breadth of services we provide, the licence fee represents excellent value for money. There are very good reasons for investing in what the BBC can do for the British public and the UK around the world.

“A freeze in the first two years of this settlement means the BBC will now have to absorb inflation. That is disappointing – not just for licence fee payers, but also for the cultural industries who rely on the BBC for the important work they do across the UK.

“The BBC’s income for UK services is already 30 per cent lower in real terms than it was ten years ago. We will set out the implications of the settlement later, before the end of the financial year, but it will necessitate tougher choices which will impact licence fee payers."

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