Sir Christopher, a former minister, said: “With people facing a cost of living crisis, it would be fantastic if the Government was able to say that everyone is going to be relieved of paying nearly £160 to the BBC each year.” It follows Ms Dorries’ announcement in January that she is to launch a review of the way the BBC is funded. Support is growing for the abolition of the television licence and Conservative MP Julian Knight, chair of the influential Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, has also called for it to go. Ministers are already pressing ahead with plans to privatise Channel 4.
Sir Christopher said abolishing the “television tax” would help households struggling with rising prices. He added: “What better way of privatising it than by giving everybody who is a current licence fee-payer some free shares in it?”
Privatising the BBC would also allow it to borrow money to invest in expanding its activities, he said.
“The longer we delay, the longer we are actually preventing the BBC becoming a global player in the communications and entertainment industry.”
Sir Christopher also accused the Government of failing to reform the BBC when it had the chance. He said: “They’ve got the ability to legislate and get on with this but they have chosen not to do that.
“This is another issue where the people have got to speak up and express their dissatisfaction at the lack of action on the part of the Government.”
Sir Christopher is also proposing legislation to de-criminalise non-payment of the licence fee by anyone over the age of 75, effectively making it clear they do not need to pay.
People over 75 received free TV licences until the scheme was abolished last year, with the BBC and the Government both blaming each other for the change.
Sir Christopher’s proposed legislation is unlikely to become law, but is designed to provide opportunities for debate in Parliament and put pressure on Ministers to take action.
Most of the money collected is used to fund the BBC while some goes to other services including Welsh language channel S4C.
The Government announced in January 2022 that the fee would be frozen for two years at £159, and then rise in line with inflation for four years from April 2024.
Ms Dorries stated on Twitter that the current round of licence fee funding “will be the last”, suggesting a new system would be introduced after 2028. However, the Government’s Broadcasting White Paper published in April merely included plans to “carry out a review of the licence fee funding model”.
A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “The way people consume media has changed radically since the licence fee was introduced and we will soon launch an independent review to explore the potential for alternative ways to fund the BBC.”
The Culture Secretary launched a separate review in April into whether the BBC is impartial.