Nicola Sturgeon ‘deeply concerned’ about licence fee abolition
The First Minister is “deeply concerned” over reports the UK government could scrap the TV licence fee in 2027.
Nicola Sturgeon said that while politicians “will have gripes with, and criticisms of, the BBC”, it was important to protect the “principle” of public service broadcasting.
Lib Dem MSP Beatrice Wishart raised the issue during First Minister’s Questions following reports the UK government could look to end the licence fee which funds the BBC in five years’ time.
Wishart asked: “Can the First Minister indicate what the Scottish Government’s response is regarding the impact on Scotland of reports that the BBC licence fee will be cut after the current funding deal ends in 2027.”
UK culture secretary Nadine Dorries announced a two-year freeze to the licence fee earlier this week.
She said the government could “not justify extra pressure on the wallets of hardworking households”.
But there have also been rumours that it will move to scrap the fee entirely in a bid to sooth backbench Conservative MPs following the fallout over the Prime Minister and parties at Downing Street.
Dorries said the government had made no decision on whether the fee would continue after 31 December 2027.
Speaking at FMQs, Sturgeon said: “The BBC is an important part of our broadcasting framework and I think we should all defend the principle of public service broadcasting. I’m deeply concerned at the announcements, or hints of announcements, we saw earlier this week from the UK government.
“I suspect and I think there is some evidence that these were an attempt to divert attention from the Prime Minister’s troubles, but nevertheless I think all of us have to stand up for these principles and guard against this government and the damage it seems willing to do to key institutions, often just to try to save its own skin.”
The SNP has previously been highly critical of the BBC, particularly over its coverage of the independence referendum in 2014.
In 2020, four of its MPs (two of whom are now Alba MPs) wrote a letter to BBC director-general Tim Davie expressing “significant disquiet over editorial balance”.
That letter proposed the licence fee could be replace with a “modest tax for media” in Scotland.