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BBC director-general Tim Davie warns of programme cuts after licence fee frozen for 2 years

The director-general of the BBC has warned it will be forced to make changes to its content if forced to rely on a subscription model.

Tim Davie warned Tuesday that a loss of £285 million as a result of the licence fee being frozen for two years would mean “inevitable” cuts to programming.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries hinted on Sunday that the licence fee could be abolished from 2028, and confirmed on Monday the fee will stay at £159 until April 2024, rising with inflation for four years after.

The government will now open a “discussion” around the BBC’s future funding model, she told MPs. This could force the BBC to rely on subscriptions, among other sources of income, in the future.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Davie said: “Once you’re trying to serve a subscription base and a commercial agenda – and, believe me, I’ve run commercial businesses – it is a completely different situation.

“Because suddenly you are doing things that are there to make profit and make a return to a specific audience.”

He added that if the broadcaster transformed into a commercial operation “it will not do what it does today”.

The corporation was in the “final knockings” of discussions with the government over funding when the freeze was revealed, he said.

“So this wasn’t a shortened process, as such, by more than a few days, but, certainly, as the Speaker of the House observed, it was an interesting way of announcing it,” he said.

He added that while the BBC understood concerns around the cost of living – the justification given by the government for the freeze – that it was still disappointed with the news. “We are disappointed,” he said. “We would have liked to have seen an inflation rise throughout the period. We’ve got four out of six years, and on we go.

“I would say having certainty of income for six years… is very material for us.”

When pressed on the future of BBC Four, BBC Two and Radio Five Live, he said: “I think everything’s on the agenda.

“People, clearly and rightly, are worried about what the £285 million cut in terms of two years flat brings, but also, as an organisation, we need to reshape ourselves for a digital age.

“The media market is moving extremely rapidly… I’m excited about re-engineering the BBC.”

Ms Dorries told MPs on Monday 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 state the Government’s preferred alternative. Standard UK

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