Worried Ex-Royal Navy boss accuses Boris Johnson of attempting to 'dismantle' BBC

BORIS Johnson has been accused of wanting to ‘dismantle’ the BBC by a former head of the Royal Navy.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 12:17 pm
Updated Friday, 7th February 2020, 7:06 pm

Admiral Lord Alan West used a debate in the House of Lords to criticise the government over its stance on the news group.

It comes as the government this week launched a public consultation on whether non-payment of the TV licence fee should remain a criminal offence.

Speaking in Westminster, former Lord West raised his concerns about the future funding for the BBC World Service and BBC Monitoring.

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People walk past Broadcasting House, the headquarters of the BBC. MPs have voted in favour of an amendment to the Deregulation Bill which, if passed, will require the Government to conduct a review of punishments for non-payment of a TV licence fee, potentially leading to its decriminalisation. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The former First Sea Lord told peers: ‘I am afraid the way we are moving with the TV licence does not seem to take into account how we will ensure that it is properly costed.

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‘It is about not just money, but the perception around the world, which must be that our government do not see the World Service and the BBC to be as important as they used to.

‘The timing of this is extraordinary, just after the election campaign, Brexit and everything. Even if it is not true, the perception will be that this is having a go at it.

Admiral Lord Alan West, former First Sea Lord.

‘The fact that ministers do not go to key current affairs programmes on the BBC again will lead to the perception that the government do not care.

‘Do the government see the BBC as a national treasure, which I believe it is, or something that, in time, they wish to dismantle?’

Baroness Diana Barron, minister for digital, culture, media and sport, said the government was behind the news service and added: ‘I shall quote my right honourable friend the prime minister in describing the BBC as a cherished national institution, which I guess is not far from a national treasure. ‘

She said the royal charter for the BBC said it must spend at least £254m on the world service up to 2022 and that the most recent accounts show £289m had been spent.

Baroness Barron added the government provided ‘some grant in aid funding’ for additional World Service languages as part of the World 2020 programme through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.