Page last updated at 14:19 GMT, Sunday, 28 February 2010

Bradshaw seeks debate by public on BBC licence fee

Ben Bradshaw
Mr Bradshaw has called for a debate over the licence fee

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw has said there is "good reason" for a debate by the public about the BBC's licence fee.

That debate over the £3.6bn settlement should consider the size of the corporation, he told Sky News.

It was important the public were involved because they paid for the service and consumed the programmes broadcast, he said.

But Mr Bradshaw declined to comment on reports that the BBC plans to cut back on radio and online services.

He told Sunday Live on Sky News: "I think there is a good reason to have a debate in the run-up to the next licence fee, which we shall have if we are in government, as to how big the BBC should be, how big the licence fee should be, even if we should continue to have a licence fee in the long-term as the best funding mechanism."

'Difficult decisions'

He went on: "The BBC is free at any time to say 'Look we don't need all the money we have got, have some back'.

"But it is very, very important that political parties in between the years when the licence fee is set don't give a running commentary like that because that would be a very serious breach of the BBC's independence," he said.

Mr Bradshaw said he did not want to be drawn on proposed BBC cuts, which would reportedly close down digital stations BBC 6 Music and the Asian Network.

He admitted he had never listened to 6 Music but said the station's future was a matter for the the BBC to decide.

"Whatever the BBC drops or stops doing there are bound to be people who are not happy with that but, hey, that is the job of leadership, that is the job of strategic management which means you have to take difficult decisions.

"Let's wait to see what the BBC comes up with before we weigh in and give commentary on it," he said.

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