Tory MP says government should not attack BBC

Conservative MP Huw Merriman has defended the BBC from attack by his own government.

Merriman, who is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the BBC, has warned that the corporation “should not be a target”.

In a column in Monday’s Daily Telegraph, he writes that the government is delivering on Brexit, recruiting more police officers and increasing sentences for the most violent criminals, but “we appear to have gone back on ourselves” regarding the BBC.

Merriman writes that “it feels as if senior government aides are now ramping up an unedifying vendetta against this much-admired corporation.

“This culminated in a bizarre promise this weekend to ‘whack’ the BBC with a suggestion it should “be slimmed down and put on subscription”.

Downing Street is reportedly considering replacing the TV licence fee with a subscription model, forcing the sale of most BBC radio stations, cutting its number of television stations and reducing the amount of content on its website.

Merriman says the BBC has an “80% approval rating from the same public which elected this government”.

He adds that given some people had voted Conservative for the first time, “it begs the question as to why we are picking such a potentially unpopular fight”.

Merriman says the government would probably be blamed if the BBC either becomes more expensive to those who want it to stay as it is, or a cheaper but slimmed-down commercial broadcaster delivering much less to those who rely on its full coverage.

“The BBC should not be a target,” he writes. “It not only brings us together at home, but also helps maintain our influence in the world…

“If the BBC ends up in decline, it will be the government which will be accused by the very people we will rely on for support at the next election.”

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