Baroness Morgan warns BBC over licence fee 'concern'

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Nicky MorganImage source, EPA

The culture secretary has warned the BBC it would be a mistake to think the future of the licence fee was not an issue of public concern.

Baroness Morgan told the BBC's Nick Robinson that the issue was "coming up more and more on the doorstep".

She said the UK needed "a national broadcaster with a very strong international footprint".

The former Tory MP also said she would step down as culture secretary when a cabinet reshuffle happens next month.

Treasury minister Rishi Sunak said last month that the government would consider whether failure to pay the TV licence fee should cease to be a criminal offence - a move that the BBC warned would cost it £200m a year.

Speaking to the Political Thinking with Nick Robinson podcast, Baroness Morgan said: "It does come up on the doorsteps more and more - 'Why do I pay my licence fee? I don't watch it. I don't agree with it.'

"However, having said that, I think public sector broadcasting, and not just about the BBC but our other main channels as well, is a very important debate.

"We do need a national broadcaster with a very strong international footprint but also a brand that people turn to."

Baroness Morgan said there would always be a "variety of views", adding: "We don't always agree with the coverage, but it's very important."

"The story of the last few years in politics has been Westminster not picking up on the signals from the public and I think that's where the Boris Johnson government is determined not to go wrong, which is to listen to what people are saying," she said.

"This is the start of a process and the charter review takes a long time and we may get to a different place wholly different to where we start out."

The Royal Charter is the constitutional basis for the BBC and it sets out the public purposes of the BBC and guarantees its independence.

Baroness Morgan added: "I think that from my conversations with senior [BBC] management they understand that, but it would be a big mistake for the BBC to think that this was just an issue of only Westminster concern and not public concern."

BBC director general Lord Hall announced earlier this week that he would stand down in the summer, after seven years in the role.

He said he felt it was important the organisation had the same leader in place for the BBC's mid-term review in 2022 and the renewal of its charter in 2027.