Esther Rantzen has been branded ‘out of touch’ after defending the BBC license fee that ‘people don’t want to pay’.
Rantzen appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today where she said that while the BBC may ‘occasionally annoy us’, the £154 fee should be kept because people can stumble across programmes of great value.
She said that the reason she studied English Literature was as a child she had heard a radio version of Pride and Prejudice and ‘adored it’, praising the institution for the work of David Attenborough along with its recent hit show Fleabag and their ability to ‘take risks’.
The debate comes amid speculation Number 10 will scrap the fee and replace it with a Netflix-style subscription service.
The Government is already consulting on proposals to decriminalise non-payment of the fee, with ministers suggesting it could be abolished altogether when the BBC’s charter comes up for renewal in 2027.
Madeline Grant, who joined Rantzen today, argued that if the BBC was valuable then people would be willing to pay for it voluntarily without the need for a mandatory state-backed fee.
Dozens of social media users voiced their agreement with the notion, accusing Rantzen of being ‘out of touch’ on the issue.
Esther Ranzen appeared on the ITV show today where she said that while the BBC may ‘occasionally annoy us’, the license fee should be kept because people can stumble across programmes of great value
Ms Grant said that the BBC is ‘obsessed with diversity but it really struggles with diversity of opinion’, agreeing with the notion that it was staffed by ‘metropolitan liberals’.
‘I don’t think the BBC should be scrapped or abolished or it should no longer exist, I just don’t think that people should be forced on pain of imprisonment to pay what is essentially a highly regressive poll tax that hits poorer people disproportionately hard,’ said Ms Grant, the Telegraph Assistant Comment Editor.
‘Every year scores of the most vulnerable people are thrown into jail for not – for non-payment of the license fee.
‘Why should we have the license fee? Why should that exist? And would the BBC be able to continue in the current form that it takes without the license fee?’
GMB host Ranvir Singh asked if the BBC had become something of a ‘dinosaur’, and Rantzen said: ‘Never underestimate how greatly loved dinosaurs are.
‘I don’t think the BBC should be scrapped or abolished or it should no longer exist, I just don’t think that people should be forced on pain of imprisonment to pay what is essentially a highly regressive poll tax that hits poorer people disproportionately hard,’ said Madeline Grant
Twitter users voiced their agreement with Ms Grant’s sentiment, with some calling for the license fee to be scrapped
The debate comes amid speculation Number 10 will scrap the fee and replace it with a Netflix -style subscription service
‘And we can’t put them together again. The BBC is deeply loved – yes occasionally it annoys us, yes occasionally on today and other programmes you get bullying and belligerent, usually men, who are usually very discourteous to their interviewees, and that annoys me and it annoys them.’
Ms Singh said that the company also pays ‘enormously large sums of money to big stars’ but that there are programmes that ‘no other channel’ could afford to make, which Rantzen agreed with.
Dame Helen Mirren says that BBC licence fee has ‘had its day’ and claims the charge is not necessary
Dame Helen Mirren has said the licence fee has ‘had its day’.
The actress, who has previously protested the scrapping of free TV licences for over-75s, said while ‘we cannot lose the BBC …we are moving past’ the charge being necessary.
Her comments come amid speculation Number 10 will scrap the fee and replace it with a Netflix-style subscription service.
Speaking at the Kiln Theatre in Kilburn, North London, Dame Helen said: ‘I think that the licence fee has had its day. Possibly, I think it is on its way out.’
Last year, Dame Helen joined fellow stars Angela Rippon and Sir Lenny Henry in signing an open letter which called for the reinstatement of free TV licences for all over-75s.
It followed the BBC’s decision to only provide free licences to those who receive pension credit benefit to save money after the Government said it would no longer pay for the provision.
Dame Helen’s intervention aptly came as she finished filming an upcoming heist film about pensioners who protest having to pay for their TV licences.
The Duke, which co-stars Jim Broadbent, is based on the true story of an elderly thief who steals a valuable painting in opposition to the charge.
Ms Grant said Netflix’s The Crown was the ‘most expensive programme ever’ and the time where we could only experience large budget programmes via the BBC ‘has passed’.
Richard Madeley said that the BBC would argue that for ’40p a day’ the BBC offers a range of services, but Ms Grant said: ‘If it’s that good value then why does it need to be done on pain of imprisonment?’
Several social media users agreed with this sentiment, with one saying: ‘I love Ester but she’s totally out of touch! The BBC was loved!! But not anymore!’
Another said: ‘Criminalising people for not paying for a TV station that they might not even want is ridiculous.
‘We don’t jail people for having arrears on their loans or struggling to pay their utility bills – this is no different.
‘If people object to paying, remove access to the channels.’
Twitter user Liza said: ‘@BBC is too far gone rogue to be reformed. Very sad as now we do not want be bullied to pay for an agenda we do not agree with. Let those who agrees with the BBC bias agenda pay for it please.’
Another user said: ‘Yes! It’s a waste of money for something a lot of people don’t watch. We should have a choice.’
One said: ‘The BBC destroyed the BBC with its lurch to liberal wokeness.’
Last night it was claimed that Boris Johnson disagrees with Dominic Cummings over plans to scrap the BBC licence fee, with the PM favouring a ‘reform rather than revolution’ approach when it comes to the future of the corporation.
He is less keen on abandoning the fee than his chief aide Mr Cummings, according to the Times.
Mr Cummings is said to be ‘ideological’ about replacing the fee with a voluntary subscription system.