Have your say: Should Britons refuse to pay the BBC TV licence fee?

·3-min read

An MP has said he has “ripped up” his BBC TV licence and won’t pay it again in the wake of revelations about how the corporation handled its Princess Diana interview.

Last week, Lord Dyson’s report into the 1995 Panorama interview found that journalist Martin Bashir used “deceitful behaviour” to land the world exclusive and that an internal BBC investigation a year later had covered it up.

On Monday, the BBC board announced it will launch a review into the effectiveness of the broadcaster’s editorial policies and governance.

But Lee Anderson, Conservative MP for Ashfield, told the House of Commons: “I personally have ripped up my TV licence and they won’t get another penny from me ever, because in my opinion the once great BBC is rotten and my constituents should not have to pay for a service if they don’t use it.”

He called for the BBC to operate a subscription service to make it “behave in the future”.

Junior culture minister John Whittingdale replied: “With regard to subscription… the licence fee is in place until 2027 when the current charter expires, but obviously there is bound to be a debate about the future funding.”

He said the BBC’s reputation had been “badly tarnished” by the Panorama interview scandal.

He told MPs: “Lord Dyson’s report makes shocking reading. It details not just an appalling failure to uphold basic journalistic standards, but also an unwillingness to investigate complaints and to discover the truth.

Generic old person watching TV. TV Licensing customers over 75 will remain covered by a free TV licence until 31 May 2020. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 15, 2020. Following the BBC's policy announcement on the future of the over 75s TV Licence fee, TV Licensing is advising customers currently receiving a free licence that they need not take any immediate action and that they will be supported through the changes when the current arrangement for free over 75 licences paid for by the UK Government comes to an end next year. Further to a public consultation, the BBC has announced that from June next year the BBC will fund a free licence for over 75s in receipt of Pension Credit. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire (Photo by Nick Ansell/PA Images via Getty Images)
There has been criticism of the BBC TV licence after revelations about the broadcaster's Princess Diana interview on Panorama. (PA via Getty)

“That these failures occurred at our national broadcaster is an even greater source of shame."

Tory MP Julian Knight, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee said: “Lord Dyson’s report was utterly damning. 

Watch: 'I'm giving cash for over-75s TV licence'

“Put simply, Mr Bashir obtained fame and fortune by instituting document forgery and callously scaring a mentally vulnerable woman.

“The BBC then covered this up, blackballing whistleblowers and ensuring its own reporters didn’t report on Bashir.

“But it didn’t stop there: the BBC rehired Bashir, who they know was a liar, promoted him and then, extraordinarily for the BBC, allowed him to moonlight for their main commercial rival.”

Announcing a review of its practices, the BBC board admitted the failings set out in Lord Dyson’s report and said it hoped to ensure the “mistakes of the past” were not repeated.

In a statement, it said: “We accepted Lord Dyson’s findings in full and reiterate the apology we have offered to all those affected by the failings identified.

File photo dated 20/11/95 of Diana, Princess of Wales, during her interview with Martin Bashir for the BBC, which is on a new chart of the most-watched programmes in the 80-year history of British television.
A report found journalist Martin Bashir, right, used deceit to secure his 1995 BBC Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales. (PA)

“We recognise the impact that the events it describes has had on so many people, not least those whose lives were personally affected by what happened.

“We also acknowledge that audiences had a right to expect better from the BBC.”

Lord Dyson said Bashir was in “serious breach” of the BBC’s producer guidelines when he faked bank statements and showed them to Diana’s brother Earl Spencer to gain access to the princess.

An internal inquiry in 1996, led by former director-general Lord Tony Hall, who was director of BBC news and current affairs at the time, exonerated Bashir, even though he had previously admitted lying about the fake documents he used in obtaining the interview.

BBC chairman Richard Sharp said on Monday there were “clear failures” at the broadcaster and confirmed there will be an investigation into why Bashir was rehired in 2016.

Have your say: Do you think the BBC TV licence fee is worth £159?

Watch: BBC board to review editorial policies after Lord Dyson report

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