BBC faces criticism over increase in licence fee

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Lord Grade described the licence fee as “regressive” in January, as the corporation sought an increase to the existing £159. But the government froze the fee for two years.

He also defended his criticism of “woke” views but insisted he would leave his “opinions at the door” when he took over.

The 79-year-old Conservative peer, who has held top jobs at the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, was being grilled by MPs ahead of taking up the regulator role.

He said: “Let me just say straight away that my criticism of the licence fee was about the fact that at the time of the last settlement their news bulletins were full, quite rightly, of stories about increased use of food banks, hardship across the country, people having to choose whether to heat or to eat – to use the soundbite.

And there they were, another part of the BBC, asking for more money at the licence fee, I thought that wrong and I wanted to say so.”

Lord Grade was questioned about an attack he made on “woke warriors” and his support for Laurence Fox, the actor turned political campaigner.

He said: “I have known his family. His grandfather and my father were partners in business. I admire his courage in speaking out and contributing to the debate. I don’t necessarily agree with what he says, but I admire him speaking out.”

Lord Grade has previously spoken in favour of the privatisation of Channel 4 and criticised the BBC’s coverage of events such as the Downing Street parties as “gleeful and disrespectful”.

He said: “As far as Channel 4 is concerned, that is my opinion.”

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