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Harriet Harman: Alternatives to BBC licence fee should be considered

By Press Gazette

Alternatives to the BBC licence fee should be considered in case a better option now exists, Harriet Harman has claimed.

The deputy Labour leader (pictured, centre, Reuters) and shadow culture secretary said just because alternatives had not been possible in the past did not mean that would always be the case.

Her comments came as Armando Iannucci, the writer behind hit BBC Westminster satire The Thick Of It, suggested the corporation should look at an international subscription model, both to raise additional funds and to act as a test bed for similar changes for British viewers.

In an interview with Total Politics magazine Harman said the BBC played a vital role as a public sector broadcaster that should not come under "ideological attack" and warned Culture Secretary Sajid Javid to appoint the new BBC chairman on an impartial basis.

Harman said: "The licence fee is a means to an end, it's not an end to itself. If there's a better way to have… a measure of independence from government in terms of the finance, if there's a better way of doing that, let's hear about it.

"We haven't found it in the past; we might do in the future. Let's see. It's not easy to see what would be better than the licence fee but that doesn't mean it actually shouldn't be looked at.

"What we are absolutely not up for is a kind of ideological attack on the BBC because it is a public sector broadcaster."

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Former Olympics boss and Conservative peer Lord Coe has been highlighted as a leading candidate to replace Lord Patten as BBC Trust chairman, who is stepping down on health grounds.

Harman said she had written to Javid outlining her concerns about a partisan appointment.

She said: "It's one of those appointments that needs to be done not on a party political basis, and therefore a big responsibility falls on him to act in the public interest, not in a partisan way, so we've written to him to urge him not to behave like that.

"It's a very important appointment at a very critical time for the BBC."

In an interview with the Evening Standard, Iannucci said: "The BBC should make a mint from the brand internationally. It needs a new attitude that says it's not filthy to make money.

"As for the licence, you have people on laptops saying: 'What is a television?' There will be a subscription model."

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