CULTURE Secretary Nadine Dorries has warned the latest BBC licence fee freeze “will be the last” as the Tories set out to find a new funding model for the broadcaster.

Dorries announced that the £159 fee will be frozen for the next two years, and with rising inflation the state network will have to find £2 billion in savings over the next six years.

It comes as the senior Tory accused the BBC of “left-wing bias” - Dorries has previously accused the BBC of being “hypocritical” and “patronising”.

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The Dorries announcement caused a mixed reaction on social media, with many suggesting it could have implications for broadcast freedoms and calling the move “cultural vandalism”.

Dorries also claimed that the freeze was to protect the elderly from “prison sentences and bailiffs” - but many pointed out it was the Tory government which removed the free licence fee for over-75s in June 2020.

The policy change, which had been in place since the Labour government brought in 20 years earlier, affected 3.9 million pensioners over the age of 75.

The National:

Sharing a Daily Mail report on the licence fee threat, Dorries (pictured) tweeted: “This licence fee announcement will be the last.

“The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors, are over.

“Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content.”

The annual payment, which normally changes on April 1 each year, is expected to be kept at the current rate of £159 until April 2024.

Dorries indicated she wanted to find a new funding model for the BBC after the current licence fee funding deal expires in 2027.

Dorries's announcement caused a mixed reaction on Twitter, with some claiming a review of the fee is overdue.

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However, others suggested that the changes are being made due to unhappiness in the UK Government of the coverage of the litany of scandals dogging PM Boris Johnson and other members of the cabinet and Number 10 staff.

John Nicolson, SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, said: “The Tory right hate the BBC almost as much as they hate @Channel4.

“That’s why they’re out to destroy both, leaving us a diet of sycophantic pro Johnson news on channels which cost the viewer more.”

The National: John Nicolson speaking in the House of Commons

SNP MP Nicolson was one of many to criticise the move

Molly Scott Cato, a former Green MEP, echoed Nicolson’s comments. She said: “Yep, abolishing the BBC as an independent, public-service broadcaster is all about ending the oppression of the elderly.

“Nothing about an authoritarian government seeking to close down another route for scrutiny. This is class far-right rhetoric.”

Armando Iannucci, the Scottish satirist who penned The Thick of It which mocked the inner workings of the UK Government, also waded into the debate.

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He said: “First you come for @channel4 because you don’t like its reporting of events. Now you come for the BBC because you don’t like its reporting of events.

“Have you ever considered whether it’s the events themselves that are the problem?”

The Secret Tory, a Twitter account which claims to be run by an anonymous sitting Tory MP, said: “Well done Nadine, state media should venerate Tories, not criticise them.”

Meanwhile, LBC host James O’Brien, who Dorries previously dubbed an “Islamist apologist” and called for him to be fired, said: “Literally *all* they can do is break things to applause from very right-wing media owners who profit from picking up the pieces.

“The calculation is that enough voters can be persuaded to cheer the removal of their own valuable privileges. As ever, Brexit is the blueprint.”

The National:

The Thick of It and Veep writer Armando Iannuci criticised Dorries

The licence fee is set by the Government, which announced in 2016 that it would rise in line with inflation for five years from April 1, 2017.

A BBC source told the Sunday Times: “There are very good reasons for investing in what the BBC can do for the British public and the creative industries, and the (profile of the) UK around the world.

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“Anything less than inflation would put unacceptable pressure on the BBC finances after years of cuts.”

The BBC declined to comment.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has also been contacted for comment.