Gary Lineker says BBC licence fee should be made ‘voluntary’

Harriet Brewis
Cheeky boy: Gary Lineker: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Gary Lineker, one of the BBC's highest-paid presenters, has called for the broadcaster's licence fee to be made voluntary.

The Match of the Day host, who scooped a whopping £1.75million in earnings from the BBC between 2018-19, said the annual charge presented a “fundamental problem.”

“You’re forced to pay it if you want a TV, and therefore it’s a tax,” he said in an interview with the Guardian.

“The public pay our salaries, so everyone is a target.”

His comments come amid an ongoing debate on the future of the £154.50 charge, more than six months after the BBC announced plans to scrap free licence fees for the over-75s.

Lineker suggested the fee should become optional and be charged at a higher rate to subsidise elderly and poorer viewers.

The sports pundit told the paper: “I would make the licence fee voluntary. I’ve always said for a long time, I would make it voluntary. I don’t know the logistics of how it would work.

“You would lose some people, but at the same time you’d up the price a bit. It’s the price of a cup of coffee a week at the moment. If you put it up you could help older people, or those that can’t afford it.”

While some Twitter users have criticised Lineker over his suggestion, Piers Morgan backed the idea, writing: “Good grief, Jugs @GaryLineker - you've made a sensible point... you feeling OK?”

The debate comes after Boris Johnson ordered a review of the licence fee, telling a rally in December: “You have to ask yourself whether that approach to funding a media company still makes sense in the long term given the way that other organisations manage to fund themselves.”

The current fee system is guaranteed to stay in place for the next until at least 2027, when the BBC's Royal Charter ends.

However, the BBC’s outgoing director general Tony Hall suggested his successor would need to review the corporation’s funding model before then, including the amount charged for the TV licence.

Various alternatives to the licence fee have been mooted over the years, including subscription services or a compulsory broadcasting levy.

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