MPs throw out attempt to slash BBC licence fee

A new attempt by an MP to “top-slice” the BBC licence fee by handing parts of it to other broadcasters has been comprehensively defeated in parliament.

Tory MP Peter Bone’s “Broadcasting (Public Service Content) Bill” was voted out by 16 votes to three in the Commons this afternoon and stands no chance of making any further progress.

Bone argued today that the £145 annual fee was a regressive tax and was too high. He also accused the BBC of being “institutionally biased”.

He said: “I want to retain the licence fee but I want it to be a lot less and I want the benefits of the licence fee to be available to non-BBC broadcasters.”

He wanted the fee cut to about £50 and opened up to any other broadcaster that made public service programming such as news. The shortfall in BBC funding would be made up by other means such as product placement.

Bone also suggested that the National Audit Office should have a bigger role in monitoring how the licence fee is distributed and spent.

Tory MP Edward Leigh said he recognised that there was strong opinion in parliament about how the BBC is funded but questioned the bill’s objectives.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said he “couldn’t understand” the thinking behind the bill.

He said the government was working towards a new Communications Act and there would be opportunities to discuss the issue further during that bill’s consultation period.

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