The BBC has had its day as a taxpayer-funded corporation in the wake of the Gary Lineker impartiality saga, prominent Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed.
The former cabinet minister told GB News the state broadcaster should no longer be funded by the mandatory license fee of £159 payable by all Brits who watch live television, and said the BBC would have far fewer problems if it was privately funded.
The corporation has come under fierce scrutiny over the past week after its highest-paid presenter, Gary Lineker, criticized the government’s new asylum policy on social media by comparing it with 1930s Germany. The sports presenter was subsequently suspended from his duties, which saw a massive backlash among several BBC staff who refused to work in protest, resulting in much scaled-back coverage of British sports over the weekend.
However, the corporation walked back its position on Monday, issuing a groveling apology for the whole mess and reinstating the broadcaster, who has yet to apologize for his remarks, angering many already skeptical of the state broadcaster.
“The issue is about the BBC rather than about Gary Lineker’s view,” Rees-Mogg said.
“He’s entitled to any view that he wants. We are all in favor of freedom of speech and people being allowed to say things that we don’t agree with, or may even find offensive. That’s absolutely fine.
“The issue is that the BBC is the state broadcaster and that it’s funded by a tax on televisions. If it weren’t, then we wouldn’t need to worry about its impartiality, and actually, if we changed the funding mechanism of the BBC, we could have a much freer media, as they do in the United States, where people are allowed to say what they think.
BBC reinstates Lineker and issues groveling apology for suspending presenter who breached impartiality by comparing Britain’s asylum policy with 1930s Germany
Gary Lineker will return to Britain’s screens on Saturday to present “Match of the Day” after the BBC caved to the considerable public fallout over his suspension
“And I think that would be much better, rather than this pretense that the BBC is impartial, which it isn’t, and then having rows about particular presenters’ views,” the Conservative MP added.
The former leader of the House of Commons suggested the BBC license fee is now “past its sell-by date, it needs to go.”
This is a notion that has long been prevalent among backbench MPs of the governing Conservative party in Britain, many of whom consider the state broadcaster to be inherently left-wing in its reporting, and the Lineker saga has now revitalized calls for the BBC to be defunded.
Conservative MP Scott Benton called the license fee “a decades-out-of-date, regressive tax which people shouldn’t have to pay simply to watch TV” and said “this self-inflicted chaos and (the BBC’s) obvious unwillingness to enforce impartiality will only strengthen calls for the fee to go.”
Fellow Conservative lawmaker Tom Hunt added: “Times have changed. I sense there is growing support for moving away from the coercive nature of the license fee. Clearly, the chaotic handling of the Lineker affair hasn’t covered them in glory but it’s bigger than just that.”
Former editor of The Sun newspaper, Kelvin McKenzie, warned on Saturday that “millions won’t pay the £159 license fee if (Lineker) returns.
Conservative broadcaster Nigel Farage called the corporation’s backtracking “a bad, shameful day for the BBC and will come as sickening news to license fee payers.”