The BBC could be forced by an incoming Conservative government to accept a cut in the licence fee and to justify subsidising digital channels such as BBC Three.
The party has already called for the licence fee – currently £142.50 – to be frozen. But Jeremy Hunt, the shadow Culture Secretary, strengthened its stance with a warning that the Tories would expect the BBC to offer further economies in negotiations over the size of the licence fee from 2012.
"I think it would be pretty hard to make a case for an increase in the licence fee now," he said yesterday.
"We are not ruling out freezing the licence fee or cutting it, but the BBC has to make its case very strongly because times are very difficult for licence-fee payers."
Mr Hunt also raised doubts over the viability of licence-fee cash going towards TV channels with low viewing figures, including BBC Three and BBC Four, as well as radio stations such as 6 Music and Radio 7. He said it was not for politicians to order the Corporation to ditch particular programmes or channels. But he told Sky News: "It can't be all things to all men. It can't be involved in every single niche of the market."
Mr Hunt's comments are likely to prompt a fresh attack by Labour on the Tories' relationship with Rupert Murdoch, Sky's owner.Reuse content