By Andrew Allison, Chief Executive
Operation Red Meat, as it has been dubbed, may have been the reason why Nadine Dorries apparently blindsided the BBC by announcing a freeze in the licence fee for two years. She also announced that there will be a review in the way the BBC is funded from 2028.
On the face of it, this is good news. Moving the BBC to a subscription service has always been our preferred option. But the Government hasn't said that subscription is its preferred option.
I was immediately reminded of a report into the future of the BBC by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in February 2015. When it comes to future funding of the BBC, this was the recommendation:
"The German model of a broadcasting levy on all households is our preferred alternative to the TV licence. Such a levy on all households would obviate the need to identify evaders and would be a fairer way of ensuring those people who use only BBC radio and online services contribute to their costs. A broadcasting levy which applied to all households regardless of whether or not householders watched live television would help support the use of a small proportion of the revenue raised for funding public service content and services by others, enhancing plurality."
That recommendation was written seven years ago, and it is worth noting that Philip Davies MP was the only member of the committee who voted in favour of moving the BBC to a subscription service. But don't be surprised if some form of broadcasting levy isn't discussed as a replacement to the current television licence fee.
I was asked to go on Kevin O'Sullivan's show on talkRADIO last week to discuss the BBC and its future. I argued that if the BBC really is as good as it says it is, people will be tripping over themselves to subscribe. The truth is, though, that the BBC would have to really raise its game.