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Television Licence Fee

Volume 447: debated on Monday 5 June 2006

In line with the commitment in the Green Paper, the Government are conducting a funding review to determine the level of the licence fee to apply from April 2007 and we will announce the outcome of that review later this year.

Many of my constituents, and I believe a great many others, are unhappy with the licence fee. There is a general feeling that it does not provide value for money and that the BBC no longer delivers the high-quality public service broadcasting that it once did. Does the Minister consider that, in today’s digital age, when, for instance, one can receive television pictures on mobile telephones, a compulsory tax on television ownership is the right way to deliver high-quality public service broadcasting in the 21st century?

The hon. Gentleman makes a point that I am sure reflects the views of a minority of people. The majority of people are extremely satisfied with the service that the BBC produces. We have concluded that the right way to proceed for the foreseeable future is through the licence fee. When he and the leader of his party go around caricaturing the BBC, as in a recent speech made to the Newspaper Society by the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron)—[Interruption.] I remember it well. When the right hon. Gentleman made that speech, he caricatured the BBC and claimed that it squashed all sorts of businesses. The BBC has been a source of, and a benchmark for, the greatest broadcasting anywhere in the world. We are determined to get the review of the licence fee right to ensure that people in this country will have the finest broadcasting and the best public service broadcasting. We will not allow any kind of politics to interfere with that.

Will my hon. Friend tell me whether his Department, rather than Parliament, will set the licence fee and whether there will be a debate in the House about the level of the fee?

We in the Department are conducting the funding review and we will announce to Parliament later this year what the value of that will be.