BBC offers to waive licence fee increase for two years

The BBC Trust has written to the Government offering to waive the licence fee increases it is entitled to claim over the next two years.

Under the current settlement, the BBC can claim up to a two per cent rise on the licence fee for each of the next two years.

But instead the Trust has proposed that the licence fee be frozen at £145.50 for the remaining two years of the current settlement.

The move comes at a time when the Coalition Government has slashed all state spending and indicated that it believes the BBC is guilty of overspending.

In a statement released this morning the BBC Trust said: “Given the exceptional pressures that the current economic climate is placing on licence fee payers, the Trust asked the executive in June to scrutinise its budgets and assess whether short-term savings could be made.

“The aim was to work out whether the BBC would be able to forego any increase in the licence fee for the next two years, while also planning prudently to meet its commitment to return to a zero borrowing position by the end of the current licence fee period and to maintain the broad pattern of current services.

“The executive presented its findings to the Trust earlier this month. They made clear that the loss of £144m will require some on-air changes, particularly at a time of continuing capital spend on infrastructure projects and digital switchover. Nevertheless, the Trust concluded that there are ways of making the necessary savings while keeping any on-air impact within acceptable limits.”

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “I am pleased with the BBC Trust’s proposal. I have made it clear that the BBC needs to take proper account of the current economic climate and this move, which comes with the Trust’s assurances that it will not significantly impact on the quality of services provided to licence fee payers, will be welcomed by the public.”

The decrease in BBC income may make it even harder for the corporation to meet its pension fund shortfall. BBC unions are set to hold two 48-hour strikes in protest at plans to curb pension payouts for employees.

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