Sorry auntie: Bradshaw at war with BBC

BBC hits back at government licence fee accusations

BBC hits back at government licence fee accusations

By Liz Stephens and Ian Dunt

The chairman of the BBC Trust responded directly to criticism from culture secretary Ben Bradshaw about sharing the licence fee while unveiling the corporations’ annual report today.

Sir Michael Lyons said it was “surprising that a secretary of state who has just started a public consultation exercise should give the impression that he has already made his mind up so firmly.

“You run the risk of the licence fee becoming a back pocket for government, used to fund an increasing range of activities with damage to accountability, eventually the independence of the BBC, and run the risk of a higher licence fee in the future,” he added.

The comments came in response to an earlier attack by Mr Bradshaw in the Financial Times where he heavily criticised the BBC’s director general, Mark Thomas, and Sir Michael for resisting attempts to top-slice the licence fee.

In the angriest government statement on the corporation since the days of the Hutton inquiry, Mr Bradshaw said: “I think it’s wrongheaded and will ultimately be self-defeating. And there are plenty of people I know in the BBC who agree with me.

“I think the BBC is far more likely to be able to make a strong case in future for the retention of the licence fee if it sees itself as an organisation that is not just simply always interested in defending its own narrow interests, but has a broader role in terms of defending and providing high-quality public-service content.

“There is almost a feeling of despair among a lot of highly respected BBC professionals.”

It was announced today that bonuses for top BBC executives had been suspended indefinitely.

Sir Michael said there had been “considerable disquiet” after the disclosure that 27 senior staff earned more than £195,000 last year.

However, writing in The Daily Telegraph, Sir Michael said: “In determining the right level of salaries for BBC staff we must be careful not to cut off our nose to spite our face, ending up without the skills and abilities which make the BBC the world-renowned organisation it is.”

The latest spat between the BBC and the government came after Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report called for the licence fee to be shared out with ITV regional news, putting the two at loggerheads again.