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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for his brilliant speech and for his role as the founder chairman of your Lordships’ Communications Select Committee, which I now have the honour of chairing. In contributing to Parliament’s consideration of renewal of the BBC charter, our committee is now looking at: first, the question of what the BBC is for, including whether its existing six public purposes are still relevant and whether they represent a good way of measuring the BBC’s performance; and, secondly, with regard to the BBC’s funding, whether the current process is the best way of deciding the level of the licence fee. We are now wondering whether it is sensible to continue to consider this second issue.
It would be helpful if the Minister could answer this question: are the BBC Trust and the BBC management correct in their assumption that, along with the other details they have agreed with the Chancellor and the Secretary of State, the licence fee will be increased on an indexed basis for the next five years with a starting level of the current £145.50? Has this matter now been settled, or is the Government’s expectation that, after the wider Green Paper consultation, a new starting point for indexing the licence fee—maybe higher or maybe lower than the present figure—could be substituted for the current £145.50? The answer to this question will greatly help the Select Committee in deciding whether it is worth persisting with the second part of our inquiry.