Boris Johnson ‘orders a review of the BBC licence fee’ amid claims ministers are BOYCOTTING the broadcaster’s flagship Radio 4 Today programme
- Boris Johnson hinted during election campaign he wanted to scrap licence fee
- PM is now reportedly looking at decriminalising non-payment of licence fee
- Fresh move by Downing Street will take relationship with the BBC to a new low
- Comes after ‘No10 banned ministers from appearing on R4 Today programme’
The Prime Minister hinted during the general election campaign that he wanted to scrap the licence fee as he questioned its long term viability.
And fresh after winning a massive Tory majority, Mr Johnson has instructed aides to undertake a review to look at whether people should still be prosecuted for failing to pay the £154.50 annual levy.
It comes after it was claimed that Downing Street has effectively banned ministers from appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme because of concerns about alleged pro-EU bias.
The Tories did not put anybody up to go on the BBC’s flagship morning news show on Friday or yesterday, with a boycott expected to remain in place unless there is a noticeable change in approach.
Boris Johnson, pictured in Sedgefield yesterday, has reportedly told aides to conduct a review of the BBC’s licence fee
Mr Johnson and the BBC repeatedly clashed during the election campaign after the PM refused to be interviewed by Andrew Neil.
Mr Neil grilled all of the main party leaders but Mr Johnson decided to skip a proposed sit down with the veteran presenter.
The combination of the licence fee review and the Number 10 boycott appears to suggest that things are likely to get even frostier between the two sides.
The Sunday Telegraph said Mr Johnson is looking into consulting on whether people who do not pay the £154.50 licence fee for watching television or BBC’s iPlayer catch-up service should be prosecuted.
In the last financial year, 25.8 million households had TV licences, generating some £3.6 billion in revenue for the BBC.
A review could recommend replacing the existing criminal sanctions for non-payment of the TV licence fee with a civil system of fines.
The current royal charter – which sets out the terms of governance of the BBC as well as enshrining a commitment to the licence fee funding system – is set to expire in December 2027.
Mr Johnson hinted during the campaign that the broadcaster would face a big shake-up if he retained power.
The Prime Minister made the unscheduled announcement during a visit to a haulage firm in Washington, Tyne and Wear, while out on the campaign trail earlier this month.
Asked by a worker whether he would axe the BBC levy, he replied: ‘How long can you justify a system whereby everybody who has a TV has to pay to fund a particular set of TV and radio channels? That is the question.
‘At this stage, we are not planning to get rid of all TV licence fees, although I am certainly looking at it.
‘What I will say is that – I am under pressure not to extemporise policy on the hoof – but you have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach to funding a TV, a media organisation, still makes sense in the long term, given the way other organisations manage to fund themselves.
‘That is all I will say. I think the system of funding by what is effectively a general tax, isn’t it, everybody has a TV, it bears reflection, let me put it that way.’