MP condemns government over BBC threat

BBC Broadcasting House in London

The next announcement about the BBC licence fee "will be the last", the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has said, amid reports it will be frozen for the next two years. - Credit: PA

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper has accused the Tory government of deflecting the ongoing row over Downing Street Covid parties by threatening the future funding of the BBC.

This week culture secretary Nadine Dorries announced the cost of a TV licence would be frozen for two years, and would then rise in line with inflation until the broadcaster's Royal Charter expires in 2027.

And in a tweet on Sunday she then threatened: "This licence fee announcement will be the last. The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors, are over. Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content."

The annual payment, which normally changes on April 1 each year, is now expected to be kept at the current rate of £159 until April 2024.

But Liberal Democrat Daisy Cooper says the timing of the announcement was made to take the heat off the Tories over the ongoing row about pandemic parties as the Prime Minister continues fighting for his political future.

She told the Herts Ad: “The strength of the BBC lies in its universal availability, its independence, and vitally – at a time of fake news – its reputation as a go-to source for accurate and reliable information.

"There’s a legitimate discussion to be had about the BBC's licence fee model and its funding, but it’s clear from the timing that this government announcement has got nothing to do with the future of the BBC and everything to do with Boris Johnson trying to save his own skin.”

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This newspaper also contacted various officials within the office of Conservative Harpenden MP Bim Afolami for comment, but we received no reply.

A report into alleged lockdown rule-breaking by Downing Street and other government departments is due to be published by senior civil servant Sue Gray soon.