Britain's PM Boris Johnson, reeling from 'partygate', takes aim at BBC licence fee

18/1/2022 2:32:00 AM

Britain's PM Boris Johnson, reeling from 'partygate', takes aim at BBC licence fee

https://str.sg/wQEHLONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Mr Boris Johnson's government said it is freezing the fee levied on households for the British Broadcasting Corp. and announced a review into its long-term funding, a move likely to appeal to Conservative voters as the embattled prime minister tries to shore up support.

"I've made it clear that the BBC needs to address issues around impartiality and group think," Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, a long-time ally of Mr Johnson, said in the House of Commons on Monday (Jan 17).The review will begin"shortly" and look at whether the annual £159 (S$293) fee is"still appropriate", she said. It will also be frozen for two years.

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Copy to clipboard https://str.LinkedIn LONDON: Britain's main opposition leader on Sunday (Jan 16) accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of breaking the law, but the government vowed changes after a bruising series of revelations about lockdown-breaching parties.LinkedIn LONDON: The British Conservative Party chairman rejected calls for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign but said he must address the culture within his government that resulted in multiple staff gatherings at his residence during coronavirus lockdowns.LinkedIn LONDON: Boris Johnson is hoping a slew of policy announcements, including scrapping controversial COVID0-19 passports and abolishing the BBC licence fee, can save his position as British prime minister, reports said on Monday.

sg/wQEH LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Mr Boris Johnson's government said it is freezing the fee levied on households for the British Broadcasting Corp. and announced a review into its long-term funding, a move likely to appeal to Conservative voters as the embattled prime minister tries to shore up support. At least six lawmakers in Johnson's Conservative party have now called publicly for him to quit, while others say they are awaiting the findings of an internal inquiry by senior civil servant Sue Gray. "I've made it clear that the BBC needs to address issues around impartiality and group think," Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, a long-time ally of Mr Johnson, said in the House of Commons on Monday (Jan 17). "We need to find out the facts and then the Prime Minister needs to respond effectively and to address the culture in Downing Street," Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden told Sky News on Sunday (Jan 16). The review will begin"shortly" and look at whether the annual £159 (S$293) fee is"still appropriate", she said. "I think he broke the law. It will also be frozen for two years. It also reported on plans to outsource processing of migrants to countries such as Ghana and Rwanda.

Opposition lawmakers immediately questioned the timing of the announcement, describing it as"red meat" to the Tory faithful just as Mr Johnson seeks to get his premiership back on track amid a furious public backlash over pandemic rule-breaking parties in Downing Street. Gray only has the remit to establish the facts, he added, calling for the police to look into a possible criminal inquiry once her report is out. He said the public could no longer take the prime minister seriously when it came to the pandemic response. It is a safe target for Mr Johnson, given the longstanding animosity between the Conservatives and the BBC. Many Tory politicians believe the public broadcaster known as"the beeb" - which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year - is favourable towards left-leaning policies and overly critical of the right. Related: 'Wine time Fridays' heap pressure on British PM Johnson Government minister Oliver Dowden, the Conservatives' co-chairman, conceded that the Downing Street parties were"completely unacceptable". The corporation must command"support from across the breadth of the UK, not just the London bubble", Ms Dorries said."I think he then lied about what had happened. The BBC provides multiple national and regional TV channels, national and local radio stations, a major website, the World Service and a commercial arm known as BBC Studios. "I can tell you that when he responds to the House of Commons, as he has committed to do so, he will make sure that we address the kind of culture that has allowed that to happen in the first place," he told Sky News. "The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors, are over," wrote Dorries, who is also expected to announce a freeze in licence fees until 2024.

Much of its funding comes from the licence fee levied on everyone in the UK who watches live television or streams its content. Those who fail to pay can face prosecution. After weeks of denials and stonewalling, Johnson this week apologised in parliament for at least one boozy event organised by his staff which he attended in May 2020, when Britons were banned from socialising. The investigation into the matter by senior civil servant Sue Gray would produce a factual account of events set against a summary of rules at the time, but would not advise on disciplinary actions, Dowden told the BBC. Amid tensions between the government and the broadcaster in October, Mr Johnson said in a BBC radio interview it is a"great national institution" and would be"around for a very long time". But Conservative members of Parliament regularly air grievances about the broadcaster: Mr Andrew Rosindell told the Commons this month that the BBC should be playing the national anthem on television every day. Downing Street sent apologies to Buckingham Palace, calling them"deeply regrettable" . Ms Dorries herself said on Twitter the next licence fee announcement"will be the last", implying that the government is ultimately looking to scrap the levy when the current arrangement ends. The Sunday Express reported that Johnson would remove all existing coronavirus restrictions at an upcoming review, including mandatory face masks and an instruction to work from home where possible. On irregular migration, Johnson promised life outside the European Union would allow Britain to"take back control" of the country's borders.

Under the government's current plans, the licence fee will remain at £159 until 2024 and then rise in line with inflation for the following four years. Source: AFP/yb. Ms Dorries said the freeze is necessary given the surge in living costs facing Britons. "When it comes to monthly bills, this is one of the few direct levers that we have in our control as a government," she said." New cases of COVID-19 have begun falling after a sharp spike caused by the highly-transmissible but milder Omicron variant. Freezing the fee will mean the broadcaster has to absorb inflation and that will affect programming, BBC Chairman Richard Sharp and Director General Tim Davie said in an emailed joint statement. "That is disappointing - not just for licence fee payers, but also for the cultural industries who rely on the BBC for the important work they do across the UK," they said. Former England footballer and BBC sports presenter Gary Linker called it a"the most treasured of national treasures".

Some Tories also warned the government not to go too far. Mr Julian Knight, who chairs Parliament's culture committee, called on the government to ensure the BBC can"compete effectively on a global stage". Former Conservative Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said the debate on funding should be"not to undermine the BBC but to ensure it can survive going forward". Join .