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BBC License Fee Set to Rise in April Amid Intense Government Scrutiny

The BBC license fee is set to rise again during one of the stormiest chapters in the public broadcaster’s history.

The U.K. government confirmed today that from April 1, the annual television license fee – which is used to fund BBC content across television, radio and catch-up services – will rise from £154.50 ($201.03) to £157.50 ($204.93).

The new fee amounts to £3.02 ($3.93) a week, or £13.13 ($17.08) a month, for which the BBC provides nine national TV channels as well as regional programming, 10 national radio stations, 40 local radio stations, radio app BBC Sounds and catch-up service BBC iPlayer.

The price hike is not a surprise, as the government announced in 2016 that the license fee would rise in line with inflation for five years from April 2017. However, the timing of this year’s price increase comes at a particularly chaotic period for the BBC, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowing to shake up the funding model for the public broadcaster since his election campaign, when he first threatened to decriminalize payment of the license fee.

According to a report in the Financial Times last week, the government is planning to take its first steps in abolishing the criminal sanctions currently in place for non-payment of the license fee this week.

Last week, the BBC revealed plans to cut 450 jobs in its news operation as part of a cost-cutting exercise. The cuts form part of a new reorganization of the newsroom along a “story-led” model, focusing on news stories more than on programs or platforms. The changes mean a reduction in the overall number of stories covered by the BBC, and are part of an attempt by BBC News to save £80 million ($104 million) by 2022.

Amid all this, BBC director general Tony Hall revealed earlier this month that he is to step down this July, leaving the BBC to secure his replacement in the coming months.

Programs funded by the license fee in the last year include BBC One’s “Gavin & Stacey” special, which drew 18.5 million viewers. Meanwhile, BBC iPlayer reportedly received 4.4 billion program requests, while 23 million tuned into the BBC’s election coverage.

Licence fee payers will receive a reminder or a payment plan reflecting the new amount when their license is next due for renewal. Those buying or renewing a license after April 1 will pay the new fee, while those who were paying in instalments that started before April will continue paying the previous amount until their plan comes up for renewal.

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