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Hugh Grant, ‘The Thick of It’ Creator Armando Iannucci and Sports Host Gary Lineker Among Stars Supporting BBC Over Licence Fee Threats

Armando-Ianucci-Gary-Lineker
AP

“Notting Hill” actor Hugh Grant, “The Thick of It” creator Armando Iannucci and soccer star turned sports host Gary Lineker are among the industry heavyweights criticizing the U.K. government’s threats to freeze and potentially scrap the licence fee altogether.

Any U.K. household that watches any form of live television on any network or streaming platform – whether on a television or a computer screen – is required to pay the licence fee. Currently the licence fee is £159 per year, a sum that Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has said will be frozen for the next two years.

“The BBC is something the whole world admires with envy,” Grant tweeted. “It is entirely appropriate that the insecure, spittle-flecked nut jobs of this government want to destroy it.”

In a series of tweets, Ianucci (“The Death of Stalin”) replied to Dorries’ announcement that “This licence fee announcement will be the last” with the comment: “I think it’s more likely to be your last rather than the BBC’s.”

“If you really think your Government can win back the public by tossing out a panicky weekend threat to the BBC, then you under-estimate the level of support, admiration and respect the public has for it,” he continued. “First you come for Channel 4 because you don’t like its reporting of events. Now you come for the BBC because you don’t like its reporting of events. Have you ever considered whether it’s the events themselves that are the problem?”

Many on social media suspect the Conservatives’ sudden threats to the BBC over the licence fee are a reaction to the political row in which they find themselves over allegations that members of the government and their staff took part in a series of office parties during the strict lockdowns of 2020 and early 2021.

Gary Lineker, one of the BBC’s highest paid hosts, also tweeted his support of the beleaguered corporation, writing: “The BBC is revered, respected and envied around the world. It should be the most treasured of National treasures. Something true patriots of our country should be proud of. It should never be a voice for those in government whoever is in power.”

“Yes the BBC brings you the best in news, in sport, in drama, in music, in children’s, in science, in history, in entertainment, in current affairs and Sir David bloody Attenborough….but apart from that was has the BBC ever done for us?” he added in a separate tweet.

“Dragon’s Den” star Deborah Meaden tweeted “For those kicking the BBC right now…you will miss it when its gone…..” while comedian Matt Lucas wrote: “The BBC has many strengths and many weaknesses, but I suspect this government wants to get rid of it because it holds them to account[.]”

Comedian Nish Kumar also weighed in, tweeting: “This government is a pack of pissed up cultural vandals.”

“I know that it feels like absolutely everyone hates the BBC right now, and there are good reasons for that, but ending the license fee is bad news,” he added.

And “Succession” executive producer Lucy Prebble tweeted:

“Support the BBC, even when it’s being attacked as a distraction from this dirty meringue of a government. Support the BBC as if Attenborough is dying, which he is, which we all are. Support the BBC, even as they note you into despair. Support the BBC.”

The licence fee, which amounts to approximately £3.75 billion ($5.1 billion) per year, is the BBC’s primary source of income.

Households that are caught watching live television without a licence fee are subject to prosecution and even, potentially, prison time.