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UK to freeze BBC funding, consider future of licence fee

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians walk past a BBC logo at Broadcasting House in London, Britain, January 29, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain said on Monday it would freeze funding for the BBC for two years and begin a debate on whether a universal licence fee should continue in the modern television age, drawing opposition complaints of “cultural vandalism”.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries told the parliament that the corporation, at the heart of Britain’s cultural life, needed to become a simpler, leaner organisation at a time when the British public were facing rising energy and tax bills.

Dorries said the tax on all television-owning households that funds the broadcaster would be frozen at 159 pounds ($217) a year until 2024, before it can rise in line with inflation for the next four years.

Dorries said the new licence spending settlement would give the BBC around 3.7 billion pounds. However analysts have said a below-inflation budget will force the corporation to cut services.

The BBC, home to David Attenborough’s natural history programmes and entertainment shows like Strictly Come Dancing, has clashed in recent years with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, with ministers accusing it of failing to provide impartial news.

Lucy Powell, the opposition Labour spokeswoman for culture, told parliament that the funding freeze was an attack on one of the biggest institutions in British public life, and accused Dorries of “cultural vandalism”.

($1 = 0.7325 pounds)

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