Tories threaten the BBC with licence fee cuts

THE BBC could lose its exclusive right to the television licence fee unless it can regain the trust of the public, a senior Conservative cabinet minister warned yesterday.

Party chairman Grant Shapps said the broadcaster would not necessarily continue to receive the entire £3.6bn annual income raised by the fee after 2016, when the organisation’s royal charter is up for renewal.

Shapps told the Sunday Telegraph that the BBC has a “culture which is buried in the last century”, resulting in a lack of transparency and accountability.

“Things like the pay-offs have really caused concern, as have, obviously, things like Savile and Hall and the culture that goes around that,” he said.

“I think it is one of too much secrecy. I think sometimes it crosses the mark over into bullying and, I think, that the BBC has shown too much resistance to change.

Shapps also criticised what he perceives to be an anti-Conservative agenda in some of the BBC’s news reporting.

Earlier this year City A.M. revealed that more than one in 10 criminal prosecutions in the UK is for non-payment of the licence fee, which costs £145.50 a year.

More than 3,500 people a week appear in front of magistrates after being accused of not paying the charge, which is required to watch any live television in the UK.

Yesterday the BBC insisted it encouraged efforts to hold its executives to account and improve transparency.

A spokesman said: “Mr Shapps is right that transparency is key to the future of the BBC. So is its freedom from political pressure.”