BBC boss demands license fee is retained.

Director General of the BBC Tony HallDirector General of the BBC Tony Hall
Director General of the BBC Tony Hall
THE BBC license fee is so vital it would have to be invented if it did not exits, the broadcaster’s boss has insisted.

BBC director general Tony Hall has defended the licence fee and said the corporation’s opponents have to be “honest about the consequences” of their plans for the organisation.

In a speech at New Broadcasting House in central London, he said the corporation was at “a crossroads” and the licence fee - which is not currently required to watch catch-up TV on iPlayer - must be amended to cover “catch-up television as soon as possible”.

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A select committee report last week raised the prospect of the licence fee being dropped in favour of a household levy.

The director general said: “We’ve always said that the licence fee should be updated to reflect changing times. I welcome the committee’s endorsement of our proposal to require people to pay the licence fee even if they only watch catch-up television. The committee has suggested another route to modernising the licence fee - a universal household levy.

“Both proposals have the same goal in mind: adapting the licence fee for the internet age. This is vital. Because I believe we need and we will need what the licence fee - in whatever form - makes happen - more than ever.

“In fact, I’m going to go further and argue that if we didn’t have a BBC funded by a licence fee, such is the world we face, we’d have to invent it.”

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Opponents of the licence fee have likened to a poll tax because every household with a television set has to pay it, even if they rarely or never use BBC services.

Mr Hall told his audience that “people increasingly prefer the licence fee to other models of funding” and warned that scaling back the BBC too far will leave a nation dominated by “global gatekeepers and American taste-makers”.

He said: “What we do is undeniably good for Britain and the British public. And will become even more so in the internet age.

“So people who support the BBC will need to stand up for it, and speak up for it. Those who don’t should be transparent about their motivations, and honest about the consequences.”

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Select committee MP Philip Davies was among those who argued for a subscription service to replace the license, making the BBC available to those who subscribe. Mr Hall said such a move would not be enough to safeguard funding.