The BBC has announced it will freeze the licence fee at £145.50 until 2013, warning that it is likely to result in cuts to programming on both TV and radio.
It means the BBC has reneged on the current deal – which expires in 2013 – that would have seen a two per cent increase next year, with a further rise in 2012. Negotiations for a new deal, which will last until 2017, will begin next year.
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt – who will be responsible for negotiating with the BBC next year – said the freeze would be “welcomed by the public” but it is unlikely to change the government’s stance that the BBC has to cut further.
In his letter to Hunt, head of the BBC Trust Michael Lyons said that the freeze will not be “pain-free” and it was not a decision “taken lightly”.
BBC management have warned that the freeze will result in taking £144m out of the programming budget, admitting that the move “will require some on-air changes”.
Guardian writer James Robinson points out that prime minister David Cameron mentioned the possibility of freezing the fee way back in March last year. “Eighteen months later,” he writes, “and they have got what they wanted – without the need for legislation or a dramatic confrontation with Corporation management”.
Earlier this week Michael Lyons announced that he will not be returning to his role at the BBC Trust when it expires next month.