John Whittingdale says that his BBC green paper will consider a subscription model for the corporation in the long term as it is revealed the future of Radio 1 and 2 are under review.
John Whittingdale said the current licence fee is “regressive” and a “subscription model could well be an option” for the BBC.
His comments come as an independent review into whether non-payment of the TV licence should be decriminalised ruled that the current system of criminal enforcement should be maintained.
Mr Whittingdale was unveiling his green paper on the future of the corporation in the House of Commons. The scope of the paper is huge, covering controversial issues, from the possibility of scrapping the licence fee to the BBC’s future role in commissioning commercial shows such as The Voice.
A subscription model could well be an option in the longer term. John Whittingdale, culture secretary
The paper will also look into whether the BBC should still broadcast music channels Radio 1 and Radio 2. Likely to be an unpopular suggestion with many loyal listeners, it was immediately seized upon by Labour.
The culture secretary also announced that decriminalisation of the licence fee would not be possible “under the current model” but a further review would form part of the green paper.
Announcing the beginning of what is likely to become the biggest overhaul of the corporation in over a decade, Mr Whittingdale told the Commons: “The licence fee is levied at a flat rate meaning that it is regressive.
“A subscription model could well be an option in the longer term but cannot work in the short term because the technology is not yet in every home to control access.
“Therefore the options that are available for change in the shorter term are a reformed licence fee, a household levy or a hybrid funding measure,.
“In the longer term we should consider whether there is a case for moving to a full subscription model. all have advantages and disadvantages.”
Chris Bryant, Labour’s shadow culture secretary said that the BBC is Britain’s “cultural NHS” and a “beacon of accuracy” around the world.
He said that the public wants the BBC to inform, educate and entertain, including the broadcast of Strictly Come Dancing and Bake-Off.
The BBC say the green paper would leave it a “diminished, less popular” organisation.
It should be for the public to decide whether programmes like Strictly or Bake off, or stations like Radio i or 2, should continue. BBC statement
A statement released following Mr Whittingdale’s comment reads: “”We believe that this Green Paper would appear to herald a much diminished, less popular, BBC. That would be bad for Britain and would not be the BBC that the public has known and loved for over 90 years.
“It is important that we hear what the public want. It should be for the public to decide whether programmes like Strictly or Bake Off, or stations like Radio One or Two, should continue.”
Michael Palin, the comedian and presenter, is one of many celebrities who have signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph in defence of the BBC. He said: “I don’t think it is a good idea that it should be smaller and chipped away.”