In its annual report published yesterday, more than 1,000,000 households in the UK have stopped paying the BBC licence fee over the past two years.
The huge drop in numbers comes as the BBC faces a further revolt from 260,000 pensioners who have chosen not to make arrangements to pay the £159 fee following the cancellation of free TV licences for older viewers last August.
The corporation blamed the 700,000 drop last year on ‘changing audience habits’ and said that its licence check operations have been severely curtailed by the pandemic. The BBC lost 300,000 households in the previous year.
Julian Knight, Conservative chairman of the Commons Media Select committee said:
The BBC is haemorrhaging support amongst a significant proportion of the British public. If the broadcaster continues this trend, it could soon reach vanishing point where evasion is sufficiently widespread as to undermine faith in the TV licence system. This is fast becoming a crisis for the BBC.”
The number of licences in force has remained steady for a generation, at its height it reached 25.8 million in 2017. There was then a fall of 84,000 followed by 300,000 in 2019-20 and 700,000 last year.
This latest report does acknowledge the BBC’s success at steadily squeezing the salaries of its highest-earning presenters. Director General Tim Davie said most conversations about salary cuts had been “mutual and constructive” and resulted in a drop of 10% in the amount paid to the “on air talent” earning above £150,000.
Sports presenter Gary Lineker remains the corporation’s highest earner on its “public service output” with a salary of £1.36 million.