Culture secretary Lucy Frazer has hinted that the BBC may not receive its expected inflationary price rise in the TV licence fee in 2024.
Last year, the BBC agreed to a licence fee freeze until April 2024, after which the fee would rise at the rate of inflation. That would have meant a rise of around 9%, or almost £15 to £173.30, next year in what would have been the biggest single increase in the corporation’s history.
Appearing on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, however, Frazer appeared to walk back on this commitment, saying: “What we’re looking at is the appropriate rate of inflation and we’re considering that with an eye on the fact that we want to ensure people continue to be able to afford their bills. The cost of living crisis is affecting families across the country, and we want to make sure it’s affordable.”
Slightly cryptically, she went on: “We will enable [the licence fee] to rise with inflation, but we are looking very carefully at the rate of inflation.”
Frazer added that an estimated 400,000 people did not renew their licence fee last year because it was not affordable or because they did not want BBC services any longer.
“I would be very concerned if we put it up significantly even fewer people would be paying the licence fee which would of course damage the BBC and its revenues,” she added.
She added that she would make the decision “very soon” and would inform director general Tim Davie before any announcement is made.
“This is an issue we have been discussing with the BBC for a number of months,” she said.
“We’re looking more broadly at the licence fee; how do we continue to make sure the BBC is sustainable and has appropriate funding going forward?”
The government has promised a comprehensive review of the licence fee model – it has pledged to scrap the fee altogether in 2027 – although the review has yet to start.