BBC licence fee could be cut, warns minister

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The Independent Online

The BBC licence fee could be cut under the Government's public spending austerity drive, the Culture Secretary said today.

Jeremy Hunt attacked the corporation's "extraordinary and outrageous" waste in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

He said the BBC needed to recognise the "very constrained financial situation" the country is in and added he could "absolutely" see viewers paying less than the current £145.50 a year after next year's negotiations with the Government.

"I think that's the discussion that we need to have," he told the paper.

"The BBC should not interpret the fact that we haven't said anything about the way licence fee funds are used as an indication that we are happy about it. We will be having very tough discussions."

The review process begins next year and a lower levy could be in place for 2012, the newspaper reported.

He added: "There's a moment when elected politicians have an opportunity to influence the BBC and it happens every five years. It is when the licence fee is renewed.

"The BBC will have to make tough decisions like everyone else. There are huge numbers of things that need to be changed at the BBC. They need to demonstrate the very constrained financial situation we are now in."

Recent figures showed that BBC Director General Mark Thompson and the Executive Board's total pay packet went up.

Total remuneration for the BBC Executive board went up in 2009-10 to £4.769 million from £4.601 million in 2008-09.

Overall the number of BBC staff increased slightly from 17,078 to 17,238.

Chairman of the BBC Trust Sir Michael Lyons outlined plans to slash pay, calling for greater transparency and saying every pound the BBC takes from licence fee-payers must be shown to have been spent well.