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07 September 2023

BBC licence fee-payers should hold shares and appoint its bosses, Tory MP says

07 September 2023

Everyone who pays the BBC licence fee should be given shares in the corporation and be allowed to appoint its bosses, a senior Tory MP has said.

Sir John Redwood made the argument in a pamphlet promoting an “ownership revolution” for the centre-right think tank the Centre for Policy Studies.

The Thatcherite Conservative MP said ownership is a “core philosophical dividing line” between conservatism and socialism, under which he said people “live in a rented ‘social’ house, depend on earnings from employment or on state benefits, and have no savings or private pensions to sustain a decent lifestyle”.

It would then be up to the new shareholders to decide who they wished to employ as board members and as director general

Sir John criticised the BBC’s “licence fee tax model” as he said the broadcaster’s revenues are being “eroded” by viewers switching to streaming services.

The BBC is “often out of touch with much of its potential audience” due to a focus on “a narrow set of attitudes and interests”, having become “a major voice of the net zero movement, a robust supporter of international governance and a doughty opponent of populism”, he said.

The best way to resolve the issue is to ask users what service they would like and how it should be paid for, according to Sir John.

“The Government should therefore announce that the BBC will be given to the licence-payers. On a stated date anyone who is paying a licence fee would be granted a single share in the BBC, which would be newly incorporated to reflect its changed ownership.

“It would then be up to the new shareholders to decide who they wished to employ as board members and as director general.”

The former cabinet minister also warned that the UK is at risk of slipping back into nationalised industry, government-directed companies, and reliance on the Civil Service to “mend the holes and cover the cracks”.

Instead, he said, ministers should boost ownership, including of homes by supporting self-builds and the sell-off of council-owned derelict buildings for conversion into residential use.

The BBC has been approached for comment.

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