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Government's BBC cuts are a ‘pathetic’ attempt to distract from Johnson's scandals, Labour charges

THE government is signalling “the end of the BBC as we know it” in a “pathetic” attempt to distract from Boris Johnson’s difficulties over Downing Street parties, Labour said today.

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell criticised Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries for making an announcement on Twitter as part of a government plan to offer “red meat for their backbenchers.”

Ms Dorries said at the weekend that the next announcement about the BBC licence fee “will be the last” and indicated she wanted to find a new funding model for the BBC after the current licence fee funding deal expires in 2027.

According to reports, Ms Dorries is expected to announce later this week that the licence fee will be kept at the current rate of £159 until April 2024.

And a “new funding model” is expected to be found by 2027 when the Royal Charter is due to be renewed.

Ms Powell told Times Radio: “This so-called announcement, which is effectively the end of the BBC as we know it, a huge policy announcement, is nothing more than a really obvious, pathetic distraction from a Prime Minister and a government who has run out of road and whose leadership is hanging by a thread.”

She said that the licence fee is not a perfect model but said that countries around the world are looking at the “mix of models that we have in this country” for funding broadcasting.

Bectu, the entertainment sector of Prospect, defended the funding model, with its head Phillippa Childs saying: “The public service ethos of the BBC to inform, entertain and educate is something we should fiercely protect and fund properly.”

The National Union of Journalists also condemned the government’s statement as a “vindictive and desperate act of distraction.”

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Regardless of how the BBC is funded, and alternative models exist, the key issue is to preserve the principle of universality that underpins our public service broadcaster.

“A subscription service in no way achieves that. Those Reithian principles of informing, educating and entertaining are as important today as they have ever been.

“To undermine that would be an act of cultural vandalism and we hope that the public sees these attacks for what they are and rallies to support the BBC and its unarguable value to our society.”

A BBC source said that there had been speculation before and that any investment less than an inflation rate would put unacceptable pressure on the corporation after years of cuts.

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