Earlier today ConservativeHome reported Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP's plans to reform the BBC. Tim Montgomerie expressed disappointment at the party's apparent decision to reject top-slicing of the licence fee. Jeremy Hunt explains his decision below.
- If there is money spare in the licence fee, it should be given back to licence fee payers, not used to make other broadcasters dependent on the state. Times are tough for licence fee payers, and by an overwhelming margin they say they would rather the money was returned to them than doled out to someone else.
- Regional news is a dated model: what people really want is local news. Our plans for a new network of local TV stations - not dependent on the state - would transform local communities, help local businesses and promote our belief in better local democracy. Propping up the old regional model will fail to achieve any of this.
- There is an attraction for free-marketeers in making the BBC compete with others for licence fee money, and it is an option we considered carefully. However we rejected it because we believe it would make all broadcasters focus not on attracting viewers but on attracting subsidies. We need a BBC that uses the licence fee to produce programmes of the highest quality - and commercial broadcasters to keep it on its toes. The danger of the top-slicing model is that broadcasters would focus their energies more on lobbying Westminster than producing programmes that viewers want to watch.