A war of words around the future of the BBC continued on Monday amid reports of severe cutbacks to the U.K. public broadcaster.
The Sunday Times reported over the weekend that Downing Street, the seat of the U.K. government, was planning to replace the annual BBC license fee with a subscription service; sell most of the corporation’s 61 radio channels with the exception of Radio 3 and Radio 4; reduce the number of television channels from the existing 10; and scale back the BBC website.
However, senior members of the ruling Conservative party have now come out to speak against these suggestions.
Member of Parliament Huw Merriman tweeted: “I’m not sure this vendetta against the #BBC is going to end well. No mention of it in our manifesto (where we actually promised to work with BBC to build new partnerships across globe) so I won’t be supporting it.”
Former Cabinet minister Damian Green tweeted: “I hope the Sunday Times story about the BBC is kite-flying. Destroying the BBC wasn’t in our manifesto and would be cultural vandalism. ‘Vote Tory and close Radio 2.’ Really?”
The BBC’s license fee has been in the eye of the storm in recent weeks. The fee is set to rise by £3 ($3.90) to £157.50 ($205) from April.
Last week, BBC chair Sir David Clementi said in a speech: “The BBC is a great national asset; a diminished BBC is a weakened United Kingdom. Sitting behind a paywall, it would no longer be the place that brings the country together for the ‘Strictly’ final, or ‘Gavin & Stacey’ on Christmas Day, or the Armistice Anniversary or Holocaust Memorial.
“Nor would it be the place that all could turn to celebrate live important moments we enjoy as a nation: Royal weddings or jubilees, or Olympic successes.”
In December 2019, it emerged that the U.K. government was considering decriminalizing non-payment of the license fee.
Meanwhile, an online petition on 38degrees.org.uk titled ‘Save our BBC’ has reached 113,978 of its goal of 200,00 signatures so far.
The petition, set up on campaigning website 38 Degrees, states: “Our BBC is a world leading public service. The way that it is funded means that it’s independent of government and corporate pressure. At a time when fake news can spread like wildfire and when so much is at stake, this is a dangerous attack on democracy.
“We need to protect the BBC from this political attack. The Prime Minister has already tried to ban journalists he doesn’t like from No. 10 briefings. Now, he and his close advisers are going after our public broadcasters. This is a move straight out of Donald Trump’s playbook.”