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Bishop speaks up against government plans to abolish BBC licence fee

by Alex Collett

A bishop from the Church of England has spoken out about government plans to abolish the BBC licence fee.

Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, the Bishop of Ripon has praised the Corporation’s role in developing greater understanding of religion.

Dr Hartley is a Chair of the Sandford St Martin Trust that promotes ‘excellence in broadcasting about religion ethics and spirituality.’

She has expressed deep concern about Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries statement about possibly abolishing the licence fee after 2027. 

Dr Hartley, issued a statement on the Sandford St Martin Trust website, she said: "It is with concern that we at the Trust have read reports that the BBC is to be hit by a funding freeze and that the culture secretary Nadine Dorries is anticipating the abolition of the licence fee after 2027.

"The BBC plays a critical role in the promotion and enhancement of public and personal understanding of religion. This has never been clearer than during the last two years when so many UK citizens depended on the BBC for content that helped support their own religious practice and connected them with their communities.”

“The value the BBC has offered in this area is evidenced through the list of excellent programmes that have been shortlisted or have won Sandford St Martin broadcasting awards in recent years.

“As a funding mechanism, the licence fee has served as contract between the broadcaster and the UK public – the only stakeholder its output exists to serve. We would be very sorry to see this or the BBC’s reputation as a world class public service broadcaster and creative leader jeopardised and would welcome an opportunity to discuss how public service broadcasting and the BBC can be funded to truly represent all communities and viewers in the UK.”

Ms Dorries told the House of Commons that the licence fee would be frozen for the next two years and that the government would “undertake a review of the overall licence fee model”.

She said: “As the tech has changed, so have audience habits, particularly among younger viewers, so it is time to begin asking those really serious questions about the long-term funding model of the BBC and whether a mandatory licence fee with criminal penalties for individual households is still appropriate.”

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