It was widely understood that the licence fee had been set to increase in line with inflation, as part of a July agreement with the UK government, under the terms of which the BBC agreed to foot the £600 million bill for the free license fee for over-75s.
Whittingdale has now thrown that apparent resolution into doubt, telling The Media Show that the future of the license fee remains ‘an open question’.
“What happened in July was not the licence fee settlement,” Whittingdale said. “We’ve made it quite clear that the decision as to the future level of the licence fee is connected with charter review, where we are having a full public consultation in which everybody is invited to express a view.”
Speaking on the same show, BBC director of strategy, James Purnell said that the Corporation thought the earlier agreement would still establish the future license fee, and if that were not the case elements of that agreement would need to be re-examined.
“If there is an intention to have a different licence fee settlement after that, then that would be quite a big change from the letter. I think we would have to have quite a hard think about that and say all the costs in that agreement would have to go to the licence fee settlement.”