THE BBC warned yesterday that the government’s green paper on its future would pave the way to “a much diminished, less popular” service.
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said that the upcoming review of the BBC’s Royal Charter would look at whether the publicly funded broadcaster should be whittled down or would be “all things to all people.
“With so much more choice in what to consume and how to consume it, we must at least question whether the BBC should try to be all things to all people, to serve everyone across every platform, or if should have a more precisely targeted mission,” Mr Whittingdale told the House of Commons.
Subscription-based licence fees or blanket household levies could be future licensing options, he told MPs, and that non-payment could be decriminalised in the future.
He confirmed the BBC would take over responsibility for funding free TV licences — worth £145.50 per year — for over-75s from 2018/19.
The BBC said that the public should decide what they want to watch and listen to, rather than leaving the decision to Westminster.
It said: “The BBC is not owned by its staff or by politicians, it is owned by the public. They are our shareholders. They pay the licence fee. Their voice should be heard the loudest.”
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said there was no evidence that the public wanted a smaller BBC and that the world-leading creative industries would fade out without its investment.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “The BBC is a world-respected public service broadcaster, something we should be proud of and something we need to preserve.”