A piece in yesterday’s Telegraph:
Nearly two out of three Britons believe the current BBC licence fee should be scrapped, a major poll has found, as leading Tory MPs called for a root-and-branch review of the corporation’s funding.
Fifty-nine per cent of Britons say the TV licence fee cannot continue in its current form, according to the survey of 2,274 people aged 18 or over. It gives a two-to-one majority in favour of reform with just 32 per cent backing the status quo, according to the poll by Savanta ComRes.
More than a third are also unhappy with the way their licence fee money is spent amid rows over pay packages of presenters like Gary Lineker and Zoe Ball, the two highest earners with £1.75 million and £1.36 million respectively. Thirty-four per cent said the way it spent funds was “unreasonable”.
An even larger proportion – 43 per cent – felt the BBC did not reflect “British values” amid accusations that it has pursued a left-wing, Remain and “woke” agenda (an approach that Tim Davie, the BBC Director General, has sought to challenge).
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “Public opinion on the BBC is clearly moving and that means it’s time for a root-and-branch review on whether or not the public want a fully funded public broadcaster and, if so, what functions that broadcaster should fulfil.”
“I don’t know what it’s playing at because let me tell you, people are switching off in their droves. They’re ripping their TV licences up. As far as I’m concerned, they can take a running jump,” he said.
The BBC’s 10-year licence fee does not come up for renewal until 2027, but there is mid-term review in 2022 with the Government understood to be urging Mr Davie to come up with proposals for an alternative model.
The Government is also due to report shortly on its consultation to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee and make it a civil offence. It comes as the BBC has rebuffed Boris Johnson’s manifesto demands for the BBC to fund free licences for over-75s.
The poll found those over the age of 55 were more than twice as likely as younger people to believe that the BBC spends its funds from the licence fee unreasonably (46 per cent, versus 21 per cent).
One in seven people (14 per cent) said that they never watch BBC TV channels and only a quarter said that they watched BBC TV channels every day.
Rebecca Ryan, campaign director of Defund the BBC, said: “This poll clearly demonstrates that the British public is overwhelmingly opposed to the Licence Fee in its current form.
“There are rightly serious concerns over the way that the licence fee is spent, particularly given the eye watering sums paid to certain BBC presenters.
“It is also extremely worrying that the BBC has alienated such huge swathes of British people who do not think it represents their values.
“Decriminalising the licence fee is just the first step to radical reform. The next move is to ensure the licence fee only covers BBC output.”
In one of his first speeches to staff, Mr Davie warned them that “there is no room for complacency” over the corporation’s future. He said the BBC remained “relevant”, reaching 91 per cent of adults and remains “by far the most trusted news provider”.
But he warned: “The evidence is unequivocal: the future of a universal BBC can no longer be taken for granted. We have no inalienable right to exist.”
The BBC must, he said, justify itself by being value for money for the licence-fee payers. “We must grow that value,” he said. “That is our simple mission.”
He ruled out a subscription service, similar to new digital competitors like Netflix.
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