Culture and Media Secretary Oliver Dowden is expected to start negotiations over funding the broadcaster for at least five years from April 2022. He also urges the company to cut costs and provide more ‘support’ to the elderly following the decision to abolish free television licenses for all retirees over the age of 75. Its discussions follow calls from certain Conservative backbenchers for non-payment of the annual membership fee to be decriminalized.
“We are also bringing together experts from the media and technology industries to help shape the future of the public broadcasting system and explore the reforms needed to ensure its modernity, sustainability and success.”
The dispute between the government and the BBC is expected to continue until the fall of next year.
In a letter to company bosses ahead of the talks, the cabinet minister urged the BBC to “maximize business income and continue to save money.”
He asked the BBC to work out the details of any other plans to support people from vulnerable groups, including the elderly.
John O’Connell, Managing Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “These talks must result in a fairer deal for taxpayers.
“Aunt should be ordered to cut costs to protect households from another painful increase in license fees.
“But to ensure the best value for money, ministers must prepare to bring the BBC’s funding model into the 21st century.
“In the long run, public service broadcasters can only compete and survive if we remove the TV tax and leave the BBC to fend for itself.”
Mr Dowden also revealed last night that former BBC chairman Lord Grade will join a panel of experts to advise the government on the future of public service broadcasting.
The 10-person Public Service Broadcasting Advisory Committee will also include Sir Robbie Gibb, former BBC boss and Head of Communications for Downing Street, and Facebook’s vice-president for Europe, Nicola Mendelsohn.
He will provide independent expertise and advice on the government’s strategic review of public service broadcasting.
The issues that will be discussed by the panel include the possibility of privatizing Channel Four.
Lord Grade said: “Our mission of public service broadcasting has served the nation well for over 80 years, but now is the time to review its relevance for the digital age and perhaps redefine it. ”
Negotiations will determine a possible change in the calculation of the annual TV license fee, currently £ 157.50 and linked to the annual increase in inflation, and the amount of funding for the BBC and the TV channel Welsh S4C.
Mr Dowden asked the BBC to present his financial needs in accordance with his public objectives to inform his assessment of the appropriate level of the levy.
The PSB Advisory Group will advise ministers on whether public service broadcasting remains relevant and what a modern PSB system should contribute to economic, cultural and democratic life across the UK.
It will examine whether the current funding and governance models are fit for purpose.
The committee will also support the government in considering the issues raised and recommendations resulting from Ofcom’s ongoing review of public sector broadcasting.
Panelists will need to consider the impact of technology on audience habits and expectations as well as the financial viability of broadcasters and the overall structure of the television market.