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Business-loving MPs call for end to licence fee

EXPERTS accused MPs of bowing to commercial broadcasters’ lobbying yesterday after they told the BBC it should “reduce” its content and called for the licence fee to be scrapped.

University of Westminster Professor Steve Barnett issued his stark warning following the release of a Commons culture, media and sport committee report on the state broadcaster.

Its Tory chair, John Whittingdale, a former aide of privatisation-obsessed prime minister Margaret Thatcher, said that the licence fee model was “becoming harder and harder to justify and sustain.”

The committee’s report said the corporation “should not rush profound changes such as the abolition of the licence fee model but the BBC must prepare for the possibility of a change in the 2020s.”

But Prof Barnett, who gave evidence to the committee, warned that the recommendations posed a major threat.

“The ultimate aim of this report appears to be a smaller, poorer, less publicly attuned BBC which will simply be filling in the spaces left by commercial competitors rather than a thriving and dynamic institution which serves its audiences and operates in the public interest,” he said.

“It seems to be aimed more at appeasing the BBC’s competitors than promoting the interests of consumers and citizens.”

Labour shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman said the report was “a contribution to an important debate.”

But she added: “Labour supports a strong independent BBC funded by the licence fee.

“It remains one of our most trusted and respected organisations” and “the mixed economy of commercial and public service broadcasters working alongside one another has served Britain well.”


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