Today (Monday 17th February 2020), Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey and Liberal Democrat DCMS Spokesperson Daisy Cooper have written to the Prime Minister calling for him to reverse plans to scrap the BBC licence fee.
In the letter sent to Number 10 Ed Davey and Daisy Cooper outline how the Conservative government’s plans will "cost the BBC hundreds of millions of pounds" and "at least double the cost of viewing the BBC".
Following the letter Ed Davey said:
"The Liberal Democrats will fight tooth and nail for the BBC. Everyone has witnessed this Prime Minister try to wriggle out of press scrutiny and then attack parts of the media from the BBC to Channel 4, to newspapers he doesn’t like.
"The British Press is by no means without criticism, but at its best, the BBC remains a beacon of independent journalism as well as high-quality entertainment.
"Boris Johnson has no election mandate for his BBC plans, so Liberal Democrats will work with other progressives to champion public broadcasting and stop the Conservatives’ attempt to Americanise our TV news."
The letter is as follows:
We were dismayed to see on Sunday morning your government make yet another attack on the BBC with the reported plans to scrap the TV licence and make the British public pay a TV subscription fee instead.
This was not in your manifesto and appears to be yet another thinly veiled step in your government’s efforts to undermine and thereby dismantle the BBC.
The fact that Ministers are already consulting on plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee from 2022, having so recently dismissed this option in a government review just 5 years ago, is yet more evidence that these plans are not sensible, considered reforms, but a deliberate and sustained attack led by one of your closest advisors, Dominic Cummings.
Mr Cummings has previously described the BBC as the “mortal enemy” of the Conservative Party. Of course, the BBC is not perfect, and all political parties have their gripes with the broadcaster. However, this does not justify the sustained attempts to undermine and hamper the BBC as we see your government doing time and again.
Whatever its faults, the BBC strives to provide impartial journalism and a platform for different views. In depriving them of funds your government is not only obstructing their ability to invest in British talent, but risking putting TV content into the hands of US corporates. The BBC is one of the four most internationally recognised British brands and is incredibly important as an influential tool abroad.
That is why these announced plans are so alarming. Any civil system will mean a higher cost of collection and will also likely lead to higher evasion rates and higher penalties. These plans will cost the BBC hundreds of millions of pounds and if you pursue the subscription model, the fee for viewing the BBC could at least double compared to the cost of the licence fee. The losers will be the British public.
We believe that the TV licence fee should be set independently so the BBC can be truly independent of politicians of all colours and should be structured so those less able to pay are treated fairly.
The plans you have set out were not in your manifesto and therefore you have no mandate to pursue them. We write in the hope you will consider our concerns and act accordingly in keeping the BBC licence fee.
We look forward to a swift response.
Ed Davey and Daisy Cooper