A number of constituents have contacted me to raise concerns about BBC funding, so I thought it would be useful to outline my position here.
I completely agree about the importance of the BBC, which is under constant attacks from this Government.
I believe this issue goes back to the BBC Charter and the licence fee settlement made with the Government in 2015, when the BBC took on responsibility for the free TV licences. In this licence period alone, the BBC has lost £800 million in funding, even before bearing the cost of licences for the over -75s.
At the 2017 general election, the Government committed to maintain free TV licences. Instead, responsibility was passed to the BBC, knowing the BBC would never be able to afford it.
The Government has tried to blame the BBC at every turn. Indeed, the Culture Secretary said on Tuesday that the Government regrets the decisions taken by the BBC on over-75s and regional programming.
The BBC should not be responsible for implementing social policy. In my view, cuts to the BBC are not merely about spending, but are about undermining the corporation’s independence and its capacity to ask tough questions on behalf of the British people.
It was always the case that making the BBC shoulder the full responsibility of free TV licences for the over-75s would lead to cuts equivalent to the closures of BBC Two, BBC Four, the News Channel, BBC Scotland, Radio 5 Live and Sports Extra, and several local stations.
I believe the recent cuts to BBC news reporting and the redundancies in local and national news, at a time of national crisis – when the BBC is more valued and essential than ever – are a direct result of the Government’s failure to maintain its promises.