Nadine Dorries confirms BBC licence fee will be frozen for next two years

17 January 2022, 17:23 | Updated: 17 January 2022, 17:32

By Sophie Barnett

The BBC licence fee will be frozen for the next two years, with the government claiming it's "time to ask" if the charge is still appropriate.

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Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries confirmed the licence fee will be frozen at £159 and will rise in line with inflation over the next four years, during her statement to MPs on Monday.

Ms Dorries labelled the BBC a "great institution" and noted it has a "unique place in our cultural heritage", but added: "The global cost of living is rising and this Government is committed to supporting families as much as possible during these difficult times.

"Given that climate, we had to think very carefully about imposing a potential increase on the TV licence, particularly given that any increase would expose families to the potential threat of bailiffs knocking on their door or criminal prosecution.

"When it comes to monthly bills, this is one of the few direct levers that we have in our control as a government."

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Nadine Dorries has confirmed the BBC licence fee will be frozen for the next two years.
Nadine Dorries has confirmed the BBC licence fee will be frozen for the next two years. Picture: Alamy

The Labour front bench could be heard shouting "taxes" before Ms Dorries added: "We simply could not justify putting extra pressure on the wallets of hard-working households.

"Every organisation around the world is facing the challenge of inflation. I simply do not believe that those responsible for setting household bills should instinctively reach into the pockets of families across the country for just a little more every year to cover their costs.

"So today I am announcing that the licence fee will be frozen for the next two years and that it will rise in line with inflation for the following four years."

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She also told MPs the BBC needs to "address issues around impartiality", as she addressed the mid-term review of the BBC's charter, which will begin shortly.

"So it's time to begin asking those really serious questions about the long-term funding model of the BBC and whether a mandatory licence fee with criminal penalties for individual households is still appropriate," she said.

A review of the overall licence fee model will begin shortly, she added.

"We need a BBC that is forward looking and ready to meet the challenges of modern broadcasting, a BBC that can continue to engage the British public and that commands the support from across the breadth of the UK, not just the London bubble."

BBC chairman Richard Sharp and director-general Tim Davie have described the decision to keep the licence fee at the current rate of £159 until April 2024 as "disappointing".

They added they will "everything to ensure the BBC continues to punch above its weight for Britain and for audiences around the world".

The culture secretary's plans to freeze the cost of the BBC licence fee were criticised as "cultural vandalism" and a "distraction" from Boris Johnson's "disintegrating leadership" by Labour.

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell asked MPs: "Is the licence fee really at the heart of the cost-of-living crisis? Or is this really about their long-standing vendetta against the BBC?

"She won't stop until her cultural vandalism has destroyed everything that is great about Britain. Vandalism is exactly what it is to tweet on Sunday, with no notice, no discussion or thought, the end of the unique funding of the BBC altogether without any clue as to what will replace it."