MPs warned the corporation it is facing a “massive financial crunch” and must come clean about how many viewers are “turning their noses up” at the organisation. They questioned if BBC bosses have “something to hide” over non-payment levels after the organisation failed to provide precise figures to them. The broadcaster went on to supply former cricketer Lord Botham with detailed information about how many over-75s have resisted paying up.
Julian Knight, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, branded BBC executives “arrogant” and claimed they are facing a budget blackhole of £120million a year.
He said: “They are facing a massive financial crunch. It is clear lots of people for different reasons are turning their noses up at the BBC licence fee.
“The BBC does not help itself because so many people now see it as a massive woke-athon.
“There is a danger that the licence fee model is becoming unsustainable and while some may welcome that we do not have the technology yet to provide proper alternatives for a full subscription service.
“It is concerning that the BBC are willing to respond to Lord Botham but not the Commons committee which has a scrutiny role over them. It’s very arrogant.”
MPs called on the BBC to “clarify” the scale of licence fee evasion.
The corporation’s annual reports identify a rise in evasion, from just over five per cent 10 years ago to between 6.5 per cent and 7.5 per cent.
Around 730,000 over-75s have still not paid the annual fee, which rises to £159 next month, since they were stripped over their free licence last August.
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In a report today, it said the failure to create a viable and alternative form of funding for the BBC means it will be forced to continue the system until 2027, when the BBC’s charter comes up for renewal.
Mr Knight said it was clear the licence fee has a “limited shelf life” as it competes with subscription services.
He said the government had failed to develop broadband infrastructure that would allow serious consideration of other means to fund the BBC.
“Not only that, but the Government is effectively allowing the BBC to haemorrhage funds through non-payment of the licence fee as a result of continued speculation over decriminalisation of licence fee evasion, a situation it must bring to an end,” he said.
A BBC spokesman said: “The overwhelming majority of people in the UK are correctly licenced. A small minority evade and this figure has remained broadly steady over the past five years.
“The over-75s are entirely separate. We are giving people time to transition to the new system and it is misleading to link these two issues.”