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Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings ‘split over scrapping BBC licence fee’

Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings ‘split over scrapping BBC licence fee’
3 min read

Boris Johnson does not agree with senior Number 10 aides who want to force the BBC to scrap the licence fee, it has emerged.

A source told The Times Mr Johnson was “not as gung ho” on ditching the broadcaster’s longstanding funding model as his most senior adviser Dominic Cummings.

The claim comes after briefings to the Sunday Times from one senior government source said Number 10 was “not bluffing on the licence fee” and would seek to replace it with a Netflix-style voluntary payment.

The source said: “We are having a consultation and we will whack it. It has to be a subscription model. They’ve got hundreds of radio stations, they’ve got all these TV stations and a massive website. The whole thing needs massive pruning back.

"They should have a few TV stations, a couple of radio stations and massively curtailed online presence and put more money and effort into the World Service, which is part of its core job."

But an ally of Mr Johnson told The Times: “The PM is not as gung ho on the licence fee as Dom.”

They added: “With Dom it’s ideological - he believes the licence fee should be scrapped. With the PM it’s more reform than revolution.”

Another government source told the paper the Prime Minister was “cool” on the idea of scrapping the licence fee. 

The suggestion of a fresh clash with the BBC has already prompted a pushback from some Conservative MPs, with former deputy PM Damian Green warning: “Destroying the BBC wasn’t in our manifesto and would be cultural vandalism. ‘Vote Tory and close Radio 2’. Really?”

Fellow Tory backbencher Huw Merriman said: “I’m not sure this vendetta against the BBC is going to end well.”

And ex-culture select committee chairman Damian Collins said: “No surprise that no-one has put their name to this destructive idea. 

“This would smash the BBC and turn it from being a universal broadcaster to one that would just work for its subscribers.”

BBC bosses have already sought to defend the broadcaster after the-then culture secretary Baroness Morgan used a speech earlier this month to say the Government was “open-minded about the future of the licence fee” and would move to decriminalise non-payment of it.

She promised a “detailed look at the future of the TV license model itself” when the broadcaster’s charter comes up for renewal in 2027.

But BBC chairman Sir David Clementi warned that putting the BBC's services behind a subscription paywall could make it hard to "bring the country together".

He said: "The BBC is a great national asset; a diminished BBC is a weakened United Kingdom.