Minister: BBC faces challenge over 'decline in willingness' to pay fee

BBC faces real challenge over TV licence fee over ‘decline in willingness’ to pay, minister warns

  • One million households have stopped paying the fee over the past two years
  • The pandemic led to a 700,000 decline in licences bought in last financial year
  • Media minister says debate on sustaining public broadcasting is only beginning

The ‘decline in willingness’ of Britons to pay the TV licence fee is going to become a real challenge for the BBC, media minister John Whittingdale warned yesterday.

A million households have stopped paying the charge over the past two years, according to the corporation’s annual report.

The pandemic led to a 700,000 decline in licences purchased in the last financial year.

Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, Mr Whittingdale said: ‘I think it is inevitable that certain trends which are now already clearly visible will continue.

A million households have stopped paying the charge over the past two years, according to the corporation’s annual report [File photo]

‘One is the switch away from linear viewing. The second is in the longer term the decline in willingness to pay the BBC’s licence fee.

‘And those are going to put real challenges on all of the UK public service broadcasters. So I think this debate about how we sustain public service broadcasting is only just beginning.’ 

Viewers who only use streaming services such as Netflix to watch on-demand shows do not need a TV licence.

Last year ministers kicked off negotiations on how much the licence – currently £159 – will cost from 2022. In the festival closing debate, Mr Whittingdale defended the decision to launch a consultation on whether to privatise Channel 4.

The channel is currently owned by the Government and receives its funding from advertising, but could be sold off to a private buyer.

Playwright James Graham, who was behind hit TV drama Brexit: The Uncivil War, warned during the debate that privatising Channel 4 could end up with the UK becoming a ‘cultural colony of America’ with fewer British series shown.

Viewers who only use streaming services such as Netflix to watch on-demand shows do not need a TV licence [File photo]

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