The Government’s latest surge of BBC bullying started last year when the Government reneged on its manifesto commitment to pay for free TV licences for all over-75s, leaving the BBC to pay.
Now only those aged 75 or over receiving Pension Credit applying for a licence are eligible for one for free.
The pressure on the BBC was ramped up in the General Election, when the Prime Minister Boris Johnson made an angry threat to abolish the licence fee completely, in a vengeful response to the BBC reporting the legitimate story of a sick child being treated on a hospital floor.
He then became the only party leader who refused to give an interview to the BBC’s Andrew Neil.
Johnson and his ministers have since boycotted the BBC’s flagship Today programme and within weeks of returning to power with a significant majority, one of the Prime Minister’s first decisions was to launch an eight-week consultation on whether non-payment of the TV licence fee should remain a criminal offence – knowing full well if they undermine this funding model or force the BBC into a subscription model, the BBC will cease to be anything like the one we know, love and now and then, love to hate.
The BBC is second only to the NHS for its cultural importance to this country – and it would appear neither are safe under this Government.
As our public sector broadcaster, the BBC is central to our lives.
Despite the noise that it’s losing relevance, 91% of Britons use the BBC every week. Some of the national newspapers encouraging and relishing the BBC’s demise have paywalls that charge their users double the price annually for one newspaper subscription, whilst for half the price, the BBC offers nine national TV channels plus regional TV services, a world class news service, 10 pan-UK, six national and 40 local radio stations, BBC website, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sounds – including podcasts, other apps and online services like Bitesize, CBeebies, BBC Three, Food, News, Sport and Weather, on a wide range of platforms and devices.
Decriminalisation of the licence fee was not mentioned once whilst I was out campaigning in the General Election and was certainly not mentioned in the Conservative party manifesto.
Yet now it’s become a Government priority to change the BBC funding model despite a Government independent review in 2015 concluding that the current system – though imperfect – was the fairest and most effective.
Globally, the BBC is seen as a beacon of British values. It is one of the most recognised and trusted brands, reaching more than 400 million people around the world every week. Like the NHS, it is the envy of the globe and instead of constantly criticising this wonderful British institution, we should all be immensely proud of it.
The future of the BBC as a public service broadcaster is a crucial matter to all of us and its in peril.
If you have ever enjoyed incredible programmes like The Blue Planet or valued channels like CBeebies or listen to radio channels hosting such a broad range of music, all without being interrupted by endless advertising, then its time to stand up for this great British institution. We own it. It’s ours. Let’s keep it that way
This is a monthly guest column provided by
Mohammad Yasin MP and published unedited.