the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

20 May 2009

BECTU has written to members of its Parliamentary Panel urging a vote against the Conservative proposal for a cut in this year's BBC licence fee.

The motion, which is due to be debated in Parliament today (Wednesday), has been condemned as a "gimmick". 

If successful, the proposal would hold the licence fee at £139.50 for 2009/10, and further compromise  the BBC's finances.

Text of BECTU letter

The text of general secretary, Gerry Morrissey's, letter is as follows:

Re: Parliamentary Debate on BBC Licence Fee Increase: May 20th

I am writing to you, in your capacity as a member of the BECTU Parliamentary Panel, to urge you to vote against the Conservative proposal to oppose this year's agreed BBC licence fee increase and to freeze the licence fee at last year's level.

We urge you to consider:

That the current licence fee settlement is already inadequate to produce the range and quality of services which the BBC is required to deliver.

That, directly as a result of the current settlement, there have already been 3,000 job losses at the corporation.

That a licence fee freeze would have a destabilising effect on the BBC and would inevitably lead to a diminution of services and a further significant loss of job.

That the BBC licence fee is needed not just for BBC services but also for broader activities including the promotion of digital switchover, and (possibly arising from Digital Britain) the development of broadband services in the UK.

More importantly, that the Conservatives should not attempt to gain short-term tactical advantage at the expense of the long-term future of public service broadcasting in the UK.

We believe that the correct time for a discussion on the licence fee is in the context of planning the next full licence fee settlement and not during the course of the current settlement.  We therefore urge you to vote in favour of implementing the agreed licence fee increase and against the proposed freeze.

Yours sincerely

Gerry Morrissey
General Secretary

The letter was sent to MPs, Frank Doran, Kelvin Hopkins, John McDonnell, Roger Gale and Natascha Engel; in addition Frank McAveety, Member of the Scottish Parliament, and Leighton Andrews, Member of the Welsh Assembly, were also approached for their support. 

Commenting on the Conservative proposal, Don Foster MP, Liberal Democrat shadow culture secretary, reportedly told Broadcast Now that he would be voting against the Conservative motion.

"If the best the Tories can offer to the country at a time of recession is the equivalent of £3 per family then it is nothing but a gimmick," he is reported to have said.