BBC boss: I don't think it's for one person to decide the funding model

The BBC's director-general Tim Davie discussed the licence fee's future at a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee.

The BBC’s director-general has said he does not feel it is “for one person to decide the funding model at the BBC” as the corporation faces uncertainty over the future of the licence fee.

Last week, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries confirmed the BBC licence fee is to be frozen at £159 for two years, until 2024, after which it will rise in line with inflation for the following four years.

Appearing before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting on Wednesday, BBC boss Tim Davie said the nature of the Government’s licence fee freeze announcement was a “surprise” in that particular moment.

Nadine Dorries
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Davie said: “I’m working on the basis that we have a charter for six years and there needs to be a full process involving public consultation.

“And I don’t think it’s for one person to decide the funding model at the BBC. We need to go through that properly.

“And I think the licence fee has proven itself to be very strong in what it delivers.

“We absolutely want to go through a process and listen to the public on that. That’s what needs to happen.”

Ms Dorries told MPs last week that the corporation needed to “address issues around impartiality and group think” and also added it was “time to begin asking those really serious questions about the long-term funding model of the BBC”.

She said the time had come to “discuss and debate new ways of funding” the BBC but did not detail the Government’s preferred alternative.

The Culture Secretary had hinted at the news in a tweet the day before, saying that the next announcement about the BBC licence fee “will be the last”.

Mr Davie told the committee that the corporation had been in the “final lock-in” stage of discussions with the Government but said the nature of the announcement was a “surprise” in that particular moment.

He added: “It has come at the end of a long process. I think it’s fair to say that this has been a process in which we submitted good data, a strong case, there’s been a number of meetings, and the (six year) settlement of itself was not a great surprise.”

He also noted that he was not made aware that this would be the final time he would be negotiating the licence fee.

Mr Davie said that the surprising nature of the announcement had made communicating with BBC staff “marginally harder” but noted that they had held a question and answer session on Wednesday for people to talk through some of the issues.

He said: “I think at the end of the day, of course as a CEO, you want open communication, we talk to the staff openly.

“I think with no kind of corporate speak, we’re direct with the staff. That’s how I’ve operated the BBC with my top team.

“So if you don’t expect something that makes it marginally harder, I don’t think it makes it impossible if I’m being honest, we just have to be direct and straight with the staff.”

Mr Davie appeared before the committee alongside the BBC’s chief operating officer, Leigh Tavaziva, and the BBC’s chief financial officer Glyn Isherwood.

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