The outgoing director general of the BBC has said that a “big debate” is needed about the future of the broadcaster, with preparations underway to scrap free TV licences for over-75s from August.
Tony Hall said that the corporation had proved its worth during the coronavirus pandemic, citing the influence of TV and local radio in bringing communities together.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, he said, “I think what the Covid crisis has proved is that people in their droves – 94% of the population of the UK – have turned to the BBC for either information, education or entertainment during this crisis.
“So the question is, and by the way it’s not a question that needs to be answered until 2027 when the charter comes to an end, the question is what’s the best way of funding that universally so that everybody, this great democratic idea, gets something we can all share.”
Hall added that he hopes to remain involved in the debate after he departs his current role in the summer.
“We should look at the easiest way to pay, learn from what happens in other countries, are there fairer ways to pay?” he said. “But the underpinning for all that is the idea of a BBC which is providing something for everyone.”
He also gave an update on preparations for the scrapping of free TV licences, which in March was delayed from June to August owing to the ongoing pandemic.
An estimate of 3.7 million households who had previously received a free licence will now have to pay, with only households in which a member receives pension credit now eligible for a free licence.
The step was apparently taken in a bid to stop major closures at the broadcaster – with several of its top channels including BBC Two, BBC Four and the BBC News Channel said to have been at risk due to a funding gap.
Meanwhile earlier this week it was announced that the BBC were considering bringing back BBC Three as an on air channel, while the corporation also claimed that it had no plans to close BBC Four, despite heavy speculation indicating that such a closure was on the cards.