Romford's South Street reacts to BBC licence fee announcement

Kashif Qazi, owner of Utter Nutter on South Street, said he disagreed with the government's license fee policy.

Kashif Qazi, owner of Utter Nutter on South Street, said he disagreed with the government's licence fee policy. - Credit: Daniel Gayne

The government’s announcement on BBC funding has provoked mixed feelings on the streets of Romford. 

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries has announced that the licence fee would be frozen for the next two years and abolished in 2027. 

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries - Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire/PA Images

BBC director general Tim Davie said the funding freeze would leave the BBC with a £285m funding gap, forcing it to scale back its activities. 

Charlotte Bullock, 29, was among those who spoke to the Recorder on Romford’s South Street this week, supporting the proposal and describing the fee as “pointless”. 

She said she rarely watched the BBC and suggested she might be more likely to tune in if it were a "cheap subscription every month like Netflix”.

Shop owner Kashif Qazi disagreed, worrying about the impartiality of the broadcaster if it were to lose public funding. 

The 52-year-old said: “Although complete impartiality will never be able to happen because of the nature of the beast, at least the BBC give a very good cross-section of views and are held accountable because they are using public money. 

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“It’s the envy of the world. We seem to be quite happy to scrap the things that make this country great.” 

Kashif, who runs Utter Nutter on South Street, said he thinks the government is not happy at how they are represented by the BBC and were “trying to slap them down”. 

His words echoed those of shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell, who accused the prime minister of targeting “those reporting on his rule-breaking" - referring to the recent 'partygate' scandal which saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologise for attending gatherings during lockdown last year. 

However, Balvinder Mahir, who works in Romford, did not buy the arguments that the BBC was being targeted for political reasons. 

She said a significantly lowered fee of around £40 would be “reasonable”, but said she would rather see it abolished immediately. 

“You pay for Sky, you pay for Netflix, you pay for all these other things and the BBC - I hardly ever watch it – but if you’ve got a TV in the house you have to get a licence,” said the 48-year-old. 

In addition to television and radio programmes, the licence fee also helps funds schemes like the Local Democracy Reporting Service, which scrutinises local councils and public bodies, and is used by many newspapers – including this one – around the country. 

Balvinder said such schemes may go unnoticed by licence-fee payers but added: “It doesn’t all go to those causes anyway."

Addressing the House of Commons on January 17, Ms Dorries spoke on the rising cost of living: "Given that climate, we had to think very carefully about imposing any potential increase in the TV licence fee, particularly when any increase would expose families to the threat of bailiffs knocking on their door or criminal prosecution."

She called it a "fair settlement" for the BBC and licence fee payers.