CBeebies could be axed if the BBC licence fee is scrapped, the BBC’s chair will warn on Wednesday.
Sir David Clementi is due to give a speech in Salford on 12 February highlighting BBC services and events that would be under threat if the broadcaster is pushed to scrap the licence fee in exchange for a subscription paywall.
“A subscription service would be unlikely to have much regional presence,” Clementi will say.
“It would be very unlikely to continue the level of properly curated programmes for children, or indeed the brilliant Bitesize education services that have helped so many teenagers.
“It would not have the same commitment to investing in homegrown ideas and talent to the benefit of our whole creative sector.”
CBeebies and CBBC are dedicated channels for kids TV shows including Blue Peter, Teletubbies and Rastamouse. Celebrities to have read the CBeebies Bedtime Story include Sir Elton John, Tom Hardy and Isla Fisher.
Clementi will also warn that the BBC would no longer cover national events such as “royal weddings or jubilees, or Olympic successes" if it could not rely on the licence fee.
Clementi will also point out that the government would have to pick up the £250m annual cost of funding the BBC World Service if it was no longer funded by the licence fee.
The government is already in consultation on the decriminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee – which rises to £157.50 per year from April.
As the law stands, anyone who installs or uses a TV or watches BBC iPlayer without a licence is guilty of a criminal offence. In 2018, more than 121,000 people were convicted and sentenced for evasion and issued with an average fine of £176.
It has been suggested that the BBC should become a subscription service, similar to Netflix or Amazon Prime – although these streaming services do not cover live news.
There have been hints that the licence fee model could be scrapped when the BBC’s agreement with the government expires at the end of 2027.
There were about 26m TV licences in use in the UK last year, which generated an income of £3.69bn for the BBC.
The BBC came under fire last year when it announced plans to means-test free TV licences for over-75s from June 2020. Only those who are claiming pension credit will be eligible for the concession, and over 3 million pensioners will have to start paying to keep their licence.