The Liberal Democrats are to debate plans at their Autumn conference to ensure the BBC licence fee level is set independently next year after government cuts forced the BBC to end free TV licences for most over-75s.
Liberal Democrat Culture spokesperson Daisy Cooper, who will move the motion at the Party’s first digital conference, warned the Government must never again be allowed to “force the BBC into a corner where it has to choose between cuts to programming or raising these fees on the most vulnerable.”
The Party, which led a cross party group of 106 parliamentarians calling for a review of the decision to cut hundreds of BBC staff working across regional programmes, will put forward plans to protect the long–term future of the BBC.
They will call on the Government to uphold its promise to retain the licence fee model until the end of the current Charter period in December 2027, and for a transparent and independent body to review the cost of the licence next year.
The Liberal Democrats also use the same policy motion to take a swipe at Boris Johnson ducking BBC scrutiny during last year’s General Election by calling on all senior politicians to make themselves available for scrutiny in televised interviews and debates.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Liberal Democrat Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:
“Families around the UK have flocked to the BBC during the coronavirus pandemic as a source of trusted news, entertainment and education, demonstrating the true value of public service broadcasting at a time of national crisis.
“As families face serious financial hardship and the prospect of local lockdowns, it is absurd that the BBC is left with no choice but to cut jobs and programmes that will reduce people’s ability to know what’s going on in their area.
“Ending free TV licences for the over 75s, which could push some of the poorest pensioners into poverty, jars with common decency.
“We must be clear: the responsibility of these cuts falls squarely at the feet of Conservative Ministers. With these plans, it is no wonder we can find neither hide nor hair of Boris Johnson when proper media scrutiny comes calling.
“To save BBC programming we must never again allow Ministers to force the BBC into a corner where it has to choose between cuts to programming or raising these fees on the most vulnerable. That means ensuring the licence fee is set independently.”