It is right that the BBC should play its part in making savings alongside all other public sector organisations. The Government have delivered a real-term reduction in the BBC licence fee by freezing it at its current level until March 2017.
I do not think the Secretary of State quite answered my question, but clearly we are not going to get a cut in the licence fee, as requested. May I make it much easier for her? The Secretary of State believes that everybody loves the BBC, so why make it compulsory to pay the licence fee? Why not just make it a subscription channel?
I would never want to fall out with my hon. Friend, but I think that is exactly what I did say: we have already brought forward proposals to ensure that the BBC licence fee is, in effect, reduced by freezing it. I hope that he will welcome that and, of course, we will always strive to ensure that the organisation brings forth value for money.
The Secretary of State will know that the BBC World Service is to be funded from the licence fee in due course. Whatever else happens, will she ensure that the World Service is not in any way jeopardised and that its ability to serve our national interest and to provide services to many viewers and listeners across the world is not reduced?
The World Service has a unique role to play in broadcasting on a global level. The hon. Gentleman can have my assurance that we will continue to value that in the future, though the changes to funding that have been made are important.
May I urge the Secretary of State to resist any calls for a reduction in the licence fee? The BBC has already faced significant cuts to valued services, such as local radio, as a result of the budget constraints. Surely this is just yet another attack on the BBC by its enemies, at a time when it should be focusing its attention on getting its own house in order.
There must be recognition of the fact that the BBC received £3.6 billion in licence fee in this year alone. My hon. Friend is right to say that we cannot put the quality and standing of the BBC anywhere other than at the top of the pile, but when it comes to ensuring that we get value for the significant amount of money coming from the licence fee payer, it is right that that pressure should be there.