According to the Sunday Express's lead article, as many as 50 backbench Conservative MPs are calling for the abolition of the £145.50 TV licence fee.
The group, led by Andrew Bridgen MP, propose that future funding of the BBC should be by voluntary subscription, where only those wanting to consume BBC content end up paying for it.
As mentioned in our article last night, Mr Bridgen sent a letter outlining the proposals to Culture Secretary Sajid Javid MP.
The full text of that letter, dated 15th November 2014, appears below:Dear Sajid,
I am writing with reference to the forthcoming BBC Charter renewal and more specifically regarding the future of the BBC Licence Fee. You will be aware that I brought forward the amendment which has led to your department reviewing the criminalisation of non-payment of the TV Licence with a view to full decriminalisation. As I put together my campaign on this issue, I found a great deal of concern both amongst my colleagues and the wider public regarding the current funding structure of the BBC and the sustainability of the model.
The Television Licence Fee dates back to 1946, and has been classified as a tax since 2006 by the Office of National Statistics who state "in line with the definition of a tax, the Licence fee is a compulsory payment which is not paid solely for access to BBC services. A licence is required to receive ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, satellite and cable". As a tax, it acts as one, if not the most regressive tax in the UK today. You stated yourself recently that the licence fee is "a large amount for many families" and during my research into people who have been sent to prison for non-payment, it was clear that in many cases affordability was the key issue.
With the rate of technological change since the last Charter, I feel that the current 12 year period is excessive given the current media environment. Since 2004, we have seen significant change with the increases in broadband speeds, the advent of the iplayer and subscription channels such as Netflix. With nearly 500,000 people accessing BBC services via the iplayer for free, licence fee payers are being discriminated against to the tune of around £70 million, and that number could well increase in the future.
Therefore the current BBC funding structure is increasingly becoming unsustainable, and out of keeping with the modern media environment. I believe strongly that the BBC should be planning for a future without the licence fee, and investigating subscription based payment options as well as the wealth of further opportunities that exist for its worldwide operation. I also believe Government has to play its role to ensure valued services such as news and local radio are still freely available, and consult on whether attaching a fee to the Council Tax or some similar method could be found.
I would be grateful if you could comment on my concerns regarding the BBC licence fee.
Andrew Bridgen MP