Entertainment & Arts

Public 'support' for independent BBC licence fee body

Rona Fairhead
Image caption Rona Fairhead is the first woman to head up the BBC Trust

There is public support for an "independent body" to set the level of the BBC licence fee, Rona Fairhead, the head of the BBC Trust has said.

The current annual cost is £145.50 per household and is set by the government.

It has come under criticism with reports claiming it could be scrapped in favour of a subscription model.

Ms Fairhead told the Royal Television Society (RTS) that a poll carried out by the BBC found "very little support for government intervention".

"People see a need for independent scrutiny and regulation, but they prefer this to be done by a separate body representing licence fee payers, not by government or MPs," she said.

"That included 2:1 support for an independent body to set the level of the licence fee."

More than 2,000 people were polled as part of the research.

Image copyright TV licencing
Image caption The current licence fee is set by the government

In a publicised letter to the Culture Secretary Sajid Javid last year, MP Andrew Bridgen called for the BBC licence fee to be replaced with a system of voluntary "subscription-based payment options". He also wanted to see BBC Worldwide further exploit commercial revenues.

Responding to Mr Bridgen's campaign, a BBC spokesman said that the licence fee was still "excellent value for money" at just £2.80 a week.

"It's vital that programmes like EastEnders, Strictly, Sherlock, Doctor Who and Match of the Day can be watched by everyone - not a select few.

"Public support for the licence fee had risen by 22% since 2004 and remained the most popular way of funding the BBC."

Ms Fairhead, who replaced former cabinet minister Lord Patten in the role last year, has also called for "a proper public debate" about the future of the corporation, which faces a review of its current Royal Charter next year.

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