John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, has said there is “no wonder millions of us have turned off the BBC” in recent years. It is the latest group to renew calls for scrapping the licence fee in 2021.
The remarks follow a bombshell report by the National Audit Office which suggests a drastic shift in viewing habits show “uncertainty over the BBC’s financial future”.
The report has said licence fee income is at risk because the corporation has been “slow to change” falling figures and has “no central strategy for tackling” the issue.
Mr O’Connell referred to the BBC as Auntie in his critical comment – a phrase oft-used in the 1950s to contrast the organisation’s prudish image with that of the brash ITV.
He said: “It’s no wonder millions of us have turned off the BBC.
“Even after forcing pensioners to pay the telly tax on pain of imprisonment, Auntie’s carried on splashing out on supersized star salaries and all-inclusive Hollywood holidays, leaving ratepayers to pick up the tab.
“It’s about time we axe the tax and let the British public decide what they want to watch.”
The NAO discussed the matter in its report, stating: “Falling audience share poses a financial risk as people are less likely to pay the licence fee if they do not view licensable content.”
The BBC’s licence fee income fell by £310 million between 2017-18 and 2019-20, to £3.52 billion.
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Last year the BBC cut the free licence for over-75s, with some exemptions for islanders in Britain and those on Pension Credit benefits.
Between 2017 and 2020, there was a 450,000 fall in the number of non-over-75 households buying TV licences.
This was due to changes in audience viewing habits and more of these households qualifying for a free over-75 licence, the NAO said.
The broadcaster began negotiations with the Government in November last year about the future funding it will receive from the licence fee.
Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: “The BBC faces significant financial challenges as it embarks upon licence fee negotiations and its mid-term charter review.
“It has made significant cost savings and has identified the need for more with licence fee income under pressure.
“As decisions about the licence fee are made, the BBC needs to develop a clear financial plan for the future, setting out where it will invest and how it will continue to make savings.
“Without such a plan, it will be difficult for the BBC to effectively implement its new strategic priorities.”
Incoming BBC chairman Richard Sharp, a Brexiteer and former Goldman Sachs banker, appeared before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee last week.
In response to a question about whether the corporation was “too woke”, he said it had to consider whether there was “groupthink” within the decision-making process.
Groupthink is a term used to describe poor-quality decisions made due to a greater desire for harmony or conformity within a group.