BBC licence fee is ‘regressive’ and unfairly penalises women, corporation chairman admits as he says he is open to alternative ideas for funding
The BBC’s chairman has branded the licence fee ‘regressive’ and ‘anachronistic’ as he highlighted how it disproportionately penalises women.
Richard Sharp admitted the current funding model for the corporation was ‘imperfect’ and pointed out that other countries were adopting ‘other mechanisms’ such as ‘household taxes’ to pay for public service broadcasting.
He said he did not currently have a ‘preferred option’ for funding the BBC, but pointed to issues with the current system, including ‘gender issues’ around people’s failure to pay. Those prosecuted for licence fee evasion are disproportionately female.
The BBC boss made the comments to the digital, culture, media and sport committee today.
He was there to answer questions about whether he helped facilitate a loan for Boris Johnson before the then Prime Minister backed his appointment to the BBC.
BBC chairman Richard Sharp (pictured) admitted the current funding model for the corporation was ‘imperfect’
In 2021, when Mr Sharp appeared in front of the committee, the BBC boss had described the licence fee as the ‘least worst’ option, but that he had an open mind about its future.
Yesterday, he was asked by one MP if he still felt the same way about the licence fee.
He replied: ‘There are issues with the licence fee. It’s regressive. In some ways it’s considered anachronistic.
‘There are other countries [that] adopt other mechanisms. There are a number of issues in terms of how they fall on individuals.
‘Both in terms of how we collect the licence fee, for example pensioners, and also the issues arising from people’s failure to pay the licence fee, including for example how that falls with respect to gender issues.
‘So it is imperfect and other countries are adopting household taxes, there are some broadband taxes. There are different ways to ensure that a public service broadcaster is separately funded.’
He added: ‘I don’t have a preferred option now and I also think that the BBC should contribute to that discussion when it arises.’
Last year, then culture secretary Nadine Dorries signalled the death knell for the licence fee by saying the Government was ‘ready to implement a new way of funding the BBC’.
Michelle Donelan (pictured) had effectively written off the current licence fee model, telling MPs in December it was not ‘sustainable’ in the long term. Miss Donelan was moved to a new role yesterday in the cabinet reshuffle
Lucy Frazer was named as the new culture secretary yesterday in Mr Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle
She had then announced a forthcoming review into the BBC’s future funding model.
Miss Dorries’ successor Michelle Donelan had also effectively written off the current licence fee model, telling MPs in December it was not ‘sustainable’ in the long term.
Miss Donelan was moved to a new role in yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle, with Lucy Frazer named as the new culture secretary.
In July last year, a report by peers said that the licence fee was ‘regressive’ and should be replaced with a ‘viable alternative’ system.
Members of the House of Lords communications and digital committee had warned the corporation faced ‘stagnation and decline’ if it did not come up with a ‘bold’ new plan for its future.
Last year, veteran BBC broadcaster David Dimbleby also called for the licence fee to be changed so the rich pay more for it and the poor pay less. He said what people pay should be based on the council tax band system, as the current one is ‘manifestly unfair’.
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