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Andrew Neil says BBC’s £3.5BILLION budget is not enough | politics | News

License fee is ‘suffocating’ the BBC says Jacob Rees-Mogg

The former employee of the corporation told peers on the House of Lords communications and digital committee the license fee was a “wonderful asset”. However, he warned the current budegt is not enough for BBC to please all viewers.

He told peers: “What is clear is that in trying to serve everybody it risks underserving or not serving well lots of people because the BBC has never lost its imperial mission to do everything, which was fine when it was just the BBC or perhaps the BBC and ITV, but it is very difficult when other people can do things better and have more resources to do some things better.”

The emergence of platforms such as Netflix and Amazon has led to repeated questions about the BBC license fee and the sustainability of the current funding model.

Mr Neil said: “The problem with the license fee is that the license fee is both a wonderful asset – not many businesses can count on £3.75billion of guaranteed income a year – but it is also a straitjacket because even £5billion is not enough to run a full television network with international ambitions these days.”

His intervention comes after earlier this year he called for the £159 a year BBC license fee to be ditched, suggesting a market alternative would free it to compete with other broadcasters.

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Andrew Neil will give evidence to Lords later today (Image: PARLIAMENT.TV)

“The license fee is an asset because it’s guaranteed money but it comes with a price,” he told The Times.

The 72-year-old added it was “hard to use the license fee to pay huge salaries”.

The BBC has faced severe backlash over the salaries of its highest-paid stars.

Figures released last July showed Gary Linker is the highest paid star, with a salary between £1,360,000 and £1,364,999 a year for hosting Match of the Day.

Radio 2’s Zoe Ball has an annual salary of up to £1,134,999, and News as Ten presenter earns up to £429,999.

Instead, Mr Neil argued for a hybrid system in which programming the “market doesn’t do” including news and current affairs would be funded by a small fee but all other programming would be paid for by a subscription model.

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The former BBC employee said he expected the license fee to remain in place

The former BBC employee said he expected the license fee to remain in place (Image: PARLIAMENT.TV)

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has signaled plans to scrap the fee

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has signaled plans to scrap the fee (Image: PA)

However, despite calling for a change in model, speaking today Mr Neil said he expected the BBC license fee to remain in place.

“The easy way out, the most comfortable way out, is to continue with the license fee, and I suspect that is what will happen again – it usually is,” he said.

“And that is fine and it will be trebles all around in Broadcasting House and the politicians will have dodged a bullet by doing something more controversial.

“But the BBC is one of the great national assets and it is also one of the things that defines us to the rest of the world, along with the monarchy, the universities, our military, our science and so on. And we are right to be proud of it and the public service of that is very important.”

BBC license fee over the past decade

BBC license fee over the past decade (Image: EXPRESS)

The Lords committee launched its investigation into the future of BBC funding after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced in January her intention to scrap the license fee from 2027.

A long-term critic of the license fee, Ms Dorries suggested the next Royal Charter outlining the BBC’s terms of operation should include a new funding model.

After freezing the cost of the fee for the next two years, she said the license fee should be abandoned.

She said: “This license 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.”

A formal consultation will be launched by the Government later this year.

A BBC spokesperson said: “We actively look forward to the national debate on the next Charter and, of course, all options should be considered.

“The BBC is owned by the public and their voice must be heard when it comes to determining the BBC’s future.”

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