Veteran BBC TV presenter David Dimbleby has hit out at UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson “pernicious” attempt to curb the BBC licence fee.
“The BBC is under threat in a way it has never been before. The pernicious route they [the government] are using is to say the licence fee is wrong or unfair. I don't believe it is wrong or unfair”, he told Germany's ARD TV channel earlier this week.
In a part of the interview that was not broadcast, the 82-year-old accused Johnson of using the issue to undermine the corporation, slamming the UK Prime Minister’s conduct towards the BBC as “childish, peevish and unpleasant”.
Dimbleby claimed that Johnson “doesn’t give a damn” about fairness because his landslide election victory had made him “arrogant with power”.
According to the veteran broadcaster, Johnson was “apeing” US President Donald Trump by resorting to the same political rules in an attempt to control the media.
“Johnson is apeing some of the attitudes of Trump. He is a different kind of political animal, like Trump, very similar rulebook. If you are like that the one thing you don't want is people questioning what you're doing, which is why he won't let his ministers go on television or any serious programme”, Dimbleby argued.
Going ahead with his personal attack against the British PM, Dimbleby asserted that “nobody trusts Boris Johnson”.
“Who could trust Boris Johnson? He lies everywhere to everyone. He lies to his family. He just makes it up, you know. [..]He doesn't care what people think. He just wants to be Prime Minister”, the BBC host claimed.
BBC Going Through Tough Times
The interview comes amid reports of Johnson considering scrapping mandatory £154.50 ($200) BBC annual licence fees as the country’s Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan launched an eight-week public consultation on whether to decriminalise non-payment of these fees.
She said that the government needed to "think carefully" about keeping the BBC TV licence fee relevant, adding that the funding model needed to change as fewer young people were using the BBC's radio, TV and online channels.
The Sunday Times recently quoted unnamed sources as saying that Johnson was “really strident” on the need for a major reform of the BBC, planning to annul its television licence fee and turn it into a subscription service.
Johnson’s order reportedly came after Downing Street’s decision to boycott BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, pointing at its alleged pro-Remain bias in the election campaign coverage, The Sunday Telegraph reports. The government has refused to let ministers give interviews to the programme in the days following the Conservatives’ triumphant victory.
The channel, which has been accused of overspending on company salaries and alleged political bias, also announced roughly 450 jobs in January to reach the corporation's £80 million ($103 million) savings target in 2020. Several shows, including the BAFTA-winning Victoria Derbyshire programme, have been axed due to budget cuts.