France AXES TV licence fee because of cost crisis – but Brits must still pay £160

BBC: Public share their views on TV licence fee

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French citizens will no longer have to pay €138 (£115) a year for the licence after French lawmakers voted on Tuesday to scrap the payment. The move raises questions and concerns about how public broadcasters will be funded both in Europe and in the UK.

The lawmakers voted to axe the fee in a bid to help tackle the soaring cost of living, however there are concerns how public broadcasters will be funded.

Similarly to the UK, French households have until now paid the annual fee, established in 1933, which funded public broadcasters including France Télévisions, Radio France, the Franco-German broadcaster Arte, France 24 and Radio France Internationale (RFI).

It generated €3.2 billion (£2.63 billion) in 2022, which made up the majority of income for public broadcasters in France.

The centre-right led French Senate debated the issue until the early hours of Tuesday morning when it agreed that the licence was “obsolete”, in past due to the rise of streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.

The senate has voted to allow French broadcasters to use VAT revenue until the end of 2024, however some politicians warned that the measure was only a temporary fix.

Laurent Lafon, the chairman of the culture committee, told Le Monde: “We agreed to abolish the tax, but the question remains as to how we will finance tomorrow’s public broadcasting.”

Brexiteer Nigel Farage took to Twitter to applaud the decision.

He said: “The French Parliament have voted to abolish the 80 year old TV licence fee. If only ours would have the courage.”

The news comes as the UK grapples with the issue of doing away with TV licences at home.

Earlier this year Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries confirmed that the TV licence fee would be frozen for two years with a possibility that the scheme would be eliminated after 2027.

The fee earned £3.5 billion in the 2020/21 financial year for the BBC and funded everything from TV to radio to online news.

The fee is currently set at £159, significantly higher then the French fee which was just scrapped.

Ms Dorries has described the scheme as “outdated” and said she wanted to look at new ways to fund the BBC.

Speaking to The Spectator earlier this year, she said: “We are going to very soon announce that we are going to be looking very seriously about how we fund the BBC. We are ready to implement a new way of funding the BBC.

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“We’re going to be looking at how Ofcom hold the BBC to account and then very shortly after that we will be announcing other measures that we are going to put into place to start looking at how the BBC will be funded in the future so that we are well in time to have that in place for the Charter renewal.”

Brexit Minister Jacob Reese Morgan, speaking on LBC Radio, has called the licence fee “a comfort blanket” for the BBC.

However, with a new Tory Government coming into power next month, it is unclear exactly what the position of the Tory candidates are on the fee.

Rishi Sunak has hinted at scrapping the fee while Liz Truss has, so far, remained largely silent on the issue.

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