UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has confirmed that the level of the BBC licence fee is a matter to be decided by the ongoing BBC Charter Review, with the Government’s agreement in July 2015 for the £145.50 licence fee to increase in line with inflation “not a licence fee settlement”.
The deal was in exchange for the corporation bearing the burden of free licences for the over-75s rather than the Department for Work and Pensions picking up the bill as is the current practice. The agreement also envisaged forcing those using online catch-up services to pay.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Media Show, Whittingdale said the Government had made it “quite clear” that the decision as to the future level of the licence fee was connected with Charter Review, “where we are having a full public consultation in which everybody is invited to express a view”.
“The decision taken in July was about the necessity of getting down the amount of government spending, particularly in the welfare budget, and it was the case that the DWP was having to write, every year, a very sizable cheque to the BBC to compensate them for free TV licences for those over 75. So it was understandable that the chancellor, who was looking to find savings in the welfare budget, would regard that as a legitimate area to ask for savings to be made,” he contended.