TV and radio stars rally behind BBC over plans to scrap licence fee

TV and radio stars have rallied behind the BBC after it was revealed the government plans to freeze the broadcaster’s funding and eventually scrap the licence fee.

Match of the Day host Gary Lineker criticised the move by the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, which emerged in briefings over the weekend and could force the corporation to close services and make redundancies.

Lineker told his 8 million Twitter followers the BBC was revered, respected and envied around the world. “It should be the most treasured of National treasures. Something true patriots of our country should be proud of. It should never be a voice for those in government whoever is in power,” he wrote.

Dorries is expected to confirm the cost of an annual licence will remain at £159 until 2024. The licence, which is needed to watch BBC channels and access iPlayer, will then rise slightly for three years before ending completely in 2027. Dorries remarked: “This licence fee announcement will be the last. The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors are over. Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content.”

However, Armando Iannucci, the creator of The Thick of It, challenged Dorries’ assertions. “If you really think your government can win back the public by tossing out a panicky weekend threat to the BBC, then you under-estimate the level of support, admiration and respect the public has for it,” he replied.

Former children’s laureate Michael Rosen, who regularly appears on Radio 4, mimicked the prime minister in addressing Dorries. He wrote: “Good to see your plans to give the BBC a kicking. I thought of Herodotus pinning Hannibal to the Golden Fleece. Nation shall speak unto nation but not via Broadcasting House, eh babe? Repressio pressio Boris.”

Others recognised the BBC had its critics on the left as well as the right. Comedian Nish Kumar, who hosts the Mash Report, described the government as “a pack of pissed up cultural vandals”. He added: “I know that it feels like absolutely everyone hates the BBC right now, and there are good reasons for that, but ending the licence fee is bad news.”

Some were more succinct. Businesswoman Deborah Meaden, one of the investors in the BBC’s Dragons’ Den programme, said: “You will miss it when it’s gone.”