Freezing license fee is sensible, but I didn't stand for dismantling BBC

BBC Broadcasting House in London

BBC Broadcasting House in London - Credit: Getty Images

Talking East Devon with MP Simon Jupp.

MP Simon Jupp.

MP Simon Jupp. - Credit: Remy Osman

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

I confess that I never noticed this poignant George Orwell quote is carved in stone on the walls of Broadcasting House in London, the home of the BBC.

I spent seven years working for the BBC. I worked my way up from rookie reporter to managing a team of journalists over the border in Dorset.

During my time there, I was accused of being biased by a Conservative MP and nearly every opposition party. Like most BBC journalists, I don’t think I let my political colours show. I believe I was fair to everyone. Clearly not everyone agreed!

The BBC does have a bias. But I don’t believe this bias is inherently left or right. It’s a metropolitan bias which can make parts of the corporation feel and sound distant from places like East Devon, despite excellent local services including BBC Radio Devon and Spotlight.

The BBC has many faults, but it remains iconic and one of the best broadcasters in the world. However, I know my view isn’t shared by everyone – not least some with influence within government.

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In January 2022, the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced that the BBC licence fee would be frozen for a couple of years. She also said that the future of the BBC’s funding beyond 2028 is “up for discussion”.

A few months later, it was revealed that an independent review will explore alternative funding models to replace the licence fee. When questioned on the DCMS Select Committee, of which I’m a member, it wasn’t clear what the Secretary of State would do if the review concluded the licence fee was the only viable funding option for the BBC.

Freezing the licence fee is sensible as we face rising household bills. However, I don’t recall standing on a manifesto that included systematically dismantling the BBC. The government must focus on tackling the challenges facing our country, not waste time and effort to please a few and annoy many.