The BBC licence fee could be scrapped and replaced with a subscription service, No10 has said.
Senior aides to No10 said they were “not bluffing” about changing the way the BBC is funded, making viewers subscribe for the service instead, The Sunday Times reports.
As well as switching to a subscription model, the national broadcaster could be forced to axe some of its television and radio channels.
Plans being drawn up by Downing Street could see the BBC compelled to downsize and sell off the majority of its 61 radio stations, but Radio 3 and Radio 4 will be kept safe.
The number of TV channels may also be reduced, the website scaled back, and BBC stars will be banned from lucrative second jobs, as part of the process of “pruning” the service back.
A source from No10 told The Sunday Times: “We’re not bluffing on the licence fee.
“We are having a consultation and we will whack it. It has to be a subscription model.
“They’ve got hundreds of radio stations, they’ve got all these TV stations and a massive website.
“The whole thing needs pruning back.”
Licence fee backlash
The news comes just weeks after the BBC announced that the licence fee would increase in price from 1 April 2020, to £157.70 per year.
The corporation also faced a huge backlash after announcing plans to scrap free licences from those aged over 75, affecting around 3.7 million pensions.
From 1 June 2020, this will mean those who do not receive Pension Credit will need to pay for the licence in full.
What did people have to say?
News that the BBC could be switched to a subscription model was met largely with praise on social media, with many favoured the idea of having a choice to pay for the service - rather than a licence fee imposed on them.
Twitter users wrote: “No problem at all watching these programs if you want to.. Just subscribe.. I on the other hand don’t wish to but still have to pay?.. Subscription for the BBC is a must..”
“That's why it's called subscription, you have a choice, BBC can charge as much as people are willing to pay, or not, right now they do and allow employees to say and preach what they want, and I'm forced to pay their wages, or become a criminal, that's wrong in this day and age.”
“It is not my BBC. I do not watch it or listen to it and I object to having to pay for it. Those who use the BBC should pay a subscription to do so.”
“The TV Licence is just wrong. It needs to go. Being forced to fund the BBC to legally watch its competitors is really messed up. Personally I would buy a BBC subscription to watch the things on there that I like, but it absolutely should be a choice. #axethetvtax.”
“The BBC cannot continue being funded by force & threat of criminal prosecution. BBC will survive and in fact flourish under subscription.”
“Viewing habits have changed and the BBC is stuck in the past, surely it is about time they came in to the 21st century and moved a voluntary subscription based service. Reason they won't is that they know that they will not be able to compete so want taxpayers money.”
However, others disagreed the move would be a good one, arguing some people - particularly the elderly - may struggle to pay for a subscription channel and that such a service would have its drawbacks.
“TV is essential for elderly people and those who are isolated for other reasons. How can they afford a subscription channel that offers the massive depth that BBC offers? By the whole nation chipping in we all benefit.”
“A subscription #funding model would be extremely destructive. It would change the @bbc from an accountable universal #publicbroadcaster to one that only serves subscribers. A Netflix-style model would undermine its core values. #savethebbc #publicmedia.”
“Can I ask how you expect the BBC to fund BBC National & Local radio services & in the Nation's. Are the Government turning off FM signals & encrypting the DAB service. Then everyone has to have audio equipment including in your car that accepts a subscription card.”