Nadine Dorries blasts Rishi Sunak for blocking BBC ‘poll tax’ licence fee reform

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The BBC is in a “death spiral”, according to former culture secretary Nadine Dorries who blames Rishi Sunak for worsening the corporation’s viewer crisis.

In her latest weekly column, Ms Dorries concludes that Mr Sunak – the then Chancellor – blocked her attempt to reform the licence fee.

Ms Dorries, who is still a Conservative MP, cites the recent figures showing that a record 2.84 million Brits are refusing to pay the £159 licence fee.

This is up a whopping 360,000 on the previous year – the population of Welsh capital Cardiff.

Ms Dorries slams the licence fee, referring to it as a ‘poll tax’ akin to that which brought Margaret Thatcher down, and warns that the fact just one in 20 young Brits watch the corporation’s television output is a “demographic timebomb”.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak considering scrapping TV licence fee

In grappling with the question of how to save the BBC from itself, the former culture secretary has placed the blame at the door of Rishi Sunak, who was Chancellor while she had responsibility for the BBC in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet.

She slams him for intervening to take control of licence fee policy, claiming it was tax policy and therefore his responsibility.

As culture secretary as well as attempting to privatise Channel 4, Ms Dorries launched a review of the BBC licence fee, which she describes as “regressive and indefensible”.

Mr Sunak halted the review last July, which Ms Dorries now blames on the broadcaster’s viewers crisis.

She said: “Audience figures continuing to plummet; bosses remaining unaccountable’ the content impeccably woke but not particularly entertaining – and one of the nation’s former cultural gems losing ever more of its shine.”

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She adds that it takes four years to transition from the current licence fee to an alternative funding, and that a “delayed review” by the current Government is “now too late”.

At a Tory leadership husting with Conservative MPs last summer, Mr Sunak hinted he would be willing to scrap the BBC licence fee.

Addressing the Commons Sense Group of Conservative MPs, Mr Sunak indicated he would be willing to shake up the BBC, and his team later refused to deny the reports.

Nadine Dorries froze the licence fee at £159 until 1 April 2024, resisting demands from the corporation to increase it to £180.

In her column, she argues that a state-funded broadcaster cannot compete with the streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, because they have no incentive to give listeners, viewers and readers what they want.

“They increasingly become run in the interests of their staff, not their customers,” she added.

“Private businesses such as Netflix and Amazon have to cater to their audience’s demands. The BBC, paid for by an anachronistic poll tax enforced by the criminal justice system, is far more free to do what it likes.”

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