Richard Bacon and David Baddiel among those defending BBC licence fee

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also backed the broadcaster.

TV presenter Richard Bacon and comedian David Baddiel have defended the BBC licence fee and criticised the Government over plans to scrap it.

A host of famous faces have shown solidarity with the corporation after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries indicated the licence fee would be axed.

In a tweet, Ms Dorries, 64, said the next announcement about the fee “will be the last” amid reports it will be frozen for the next two years.

The annual payment, which normally changes on April 1 each year, is expected to be kept at the current rate of £159 until April 2024.

Baddiel questioned the decision, writing on Twitter: “If, as the Government is implying re the BBC, we should only pay for something we like and agree with, I wonder if I can ask for all the money back I’ve had to spend in taxes on Brexit.”

Presenter Bacon, who has worked for the BBC, said: “The plan to scrap the licence fee is pathetic. Is that it? Is that how govt works?

“An institution that’s popular, global, prestigious, unique & British gets undone because the govt thinks the news bits of the BBC aren’t nice enough about them.

“So all the BBC loses its licence fee.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told LBC radio: “I think the BBC does a good job at holding us all to account and they ask us all questions that are really tough – as you do to me – and quite right too.

“What I fear is going on here is that, what happens is that there is rule breaking and then, this is typical of this Prime Minister, what do you do next? You then attack those that enforce the rules.

“Owen Paterson. What did the Prime Minister do? He attacked the rule enforcers. And then you attack those that hold us to account. I don’t have any truck with that.”

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said Ms Dorries’s comments on the future of funding the BBC amount to “cultural vandalism”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “Let’s not pretend that this is anything other than it is, which is a pretty obvious dead cat strategy from the Government to distract from the totally disastrous leadership context that the Prime Minister is facing at the moment.”

Ms Powell said there are “serious conversations” to be had about the BBC and that the corporation and its Charter “constantly needs looking at”, but that “you have to draw your own conclusions about the timing”.

Labour MP Kevin Brennan, who is a member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, also took aim at the Government.

He said on Twitter: “The right wing Tory attack on the BBC shows they have no clue how it economically underpins our genuinely world-beating creative industries – or if they do they really don’t care.”

Sir Ken Dodd funeral
Lord Grade (Peter Byrne/PA)

Former BBC chairman Lord Grade, however, backed an expected “freeze” to the cost of the licence fee until 2024.

Asked whether it is justified and “liveable”, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It has got to be. £159 a year may not be a lot of money to Gary Lineker, or many of the BBC executives and the commentators, but it’s a heck of a lot of money for the majority of people in this country.

“When there is inflation, hopefully temporary, and the energy crisis and so on, it’s a heck of a lot. It’s too much money.”

Lord Grade said BBC Two and Four could be scrapped, adding that Ms Dorries had “fired the starting pistol on the debate about how you deliver the best of the BBC, which is a cornerstone of the creative industries in this country, which are hugely important to the economy”.

He ruled out advertising as an alternative model but added: “Subscription is a possibility. But what do you do about radio. You can’t have subscription radio, I don’t think.

“There’s nowhere in the world really where that works, other than for very specialised services.”

BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker, who appeared in Strictly Come Dancing 2021, shared an image on Twitter of the different BBC TV and radio channels alongside the caption “43p per day”.

In a later tweet, Walker, 44, clarified: “I am well aware that the BBC makes mistakes and needs to change, but the media landscape would be much poorer without it.

“Those three letters are trusted and respected around the world.”

The TV presenter was sent home from the BBC One dancing series after his quarter-finals tango with partner Nadiya Bychkova failed to earn him a spot in the semi-finals.

Similarly, former England football star Lineker retweeted an image from the BBC press office that shows the content viewers get when they pay the licence fee.

The 61-year-old later wrote: “Yes the BBC brings you the best in news, in sport, in drama, in music, in children’s, in science, in history, in entertainment, in current affairs and Sir David bloody Attenborough…. but apart from that what has the BBC ever done for us?”

He later retweeted a video from the 1986 TV licence advert “what has the BBC ever done for us”, adding: “The BBC is revered, respected and envied around the world.

“It should be the most treasured of national treasures. Something true patriots of our country should be proud of.

“It should never be a voice for those in government whoever is in power.”

The writer, producer and director Armando Iannucci also commented on Twitter to respond to Ms Dorries.

Over several tweets, the 58-year-old said: “I think it’s more likely to be your last rather than the BBC’s.

“First you come for @channel4 because you don’t like its reporting of events.

“Now you come for the BBC because you don’t like its reporting of events.

“Have you ever considered whether it’s the events themselves that are the problem?

Ms Dorries indicated she wanted to find a new funding model for the BBC after the current licence fee funding deal expires in 2027.

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