BBC licence fee must not become bargaining chip in deal with the DUP
14 June 2017
The acting general secretary of the NUJ has said the licence fee must not become a bargaining chip in negotiations on the formation of the next UK government.
Séamus Dooley called for "a clear and unambiguous commitment" that the prime minister would not accede to a demand from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for a freeze or abolition of the television licence. He said:
"The future of public service broadcasting cannot be put at risk for the sake of political expediency.
"The DUP election manifesto contains a specific attack on the licence fee. There is a genuine concern that the DUP may seek to make this part of an agreement with the Conservative Party. The prime minister must give a clear and unambiguous commitment that she will not allow the DUP to dictate, directly or indirectly, public policy on the future of the BBC or overall policy on public service broadcasting.
"In Northern Ireland the BBC has played a vital role in coverage of news and current affairs. The BBC has been fearless, independent and objective. Media scrutiny has not always found favour with the DUP but that cannot be allowed to undermine UK government policy."
Tom Watson, Labour's shadow culture secretary, has written to Karen Bradley, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, saying: “I urge you to fight hard to ensure that this pledge is not included in any agreement, formal or otherwise, between the conservative party and the DUP.”
He added: “Cutting or abolishing the TV licence would jeopardise the BBC’s future as an independent, advertiser-free national broadcaster. It would be a great mistake. I look forward to receiving reassurances that there will be no concessions to the DUP on this matter. And I would be grateful if you would give a specific commitment to maintaining the TV licence as the BBC’s funding mechanism.”