John Whittingdale has been made Culture, Media and Sport Secretary in David Cameron’s new Cabinet reshuffle. Last year the MP said that the BBC licence fee was, “Worse than the poll tax,” and has taken what some have described as a ‘hardline’ view of the BBC.
He replaces Sajid Javid and will going head-to-head with the BBC to negotiate its new 10-year charter as one of his key priorities.
It is widely believed that the BBC licence fee will be cut considerably or scrapped in its present form. Last year Whittingdale suggested that the fee could be reduced, where there could be an, “element of choice.”
The current BBC licence fee costs £145.50 a year and is compulsory for people who own a TV regardless of their background or income group. Citizens over 75 are entitled to a free TV Licence, while care home residents and disabled people can receive a significant discount. Failure to pay the fee however can result in jail sentences and steep fines of up to £1000.
A study released in 2013 revealed that 107 people had been jailed for not paying their BBC Licence fee while mounting criticism from MPs in the last Parliament led to calls for the Licence fee to be decriminalised. The Conservative-led government was subsequently defeated in the House of Lords over decriminalising the licence fee.
The new Conservative majority government will seek to amend the TV Licence fee as the way people consume content has changed dramatically in the past few years.