Minister plays down story which suggests BBC could be made to sell Radio 1, 2, and 5 Live

PUBLISHED: 21:09 16 February 2020 | UPDATED: 21:19 16 February 2020

Reports suggest Boris Johnson could significantly shake-up the BBC. Photograph: Rick Findler/PA.

Reports suggest Boris Johnson could significantly shake-up the BBC. Photograph: Rick Findler/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

A government minister has played down comments from Downing Street that the BBC will attempt to scrap the licence fee and force the BBC to sell off many of its radio stations.

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The Sunday Times quoted a senior source as saying that the broadcaster could be forced to sell off most of its radio stations in a "massive pruning back" of its activities, only safeguarding Radio 3 and 4.

The paper said that the number of BBC television channels could also be reduced, the website scaled back and stars banned from cashing in on well-paid second jobs.

One source told the newspaper: "We are not bluffing on the licence fee. We are having a consultation and we will whack it. It has got to be a subscription model.

"They've got hundreds of radio stations, they've got all these TV stations and a massive website. The whole thing needs massive pruning back.

"They should have a few TV stations, a couple of radio stations and massively curtailed online presence and put more money and effort into the World Service which is part of its core job.

"The PM is firmly of the view that there needs to be serious reform. He is really strident on this."

But transport secretary Grant Shapps said that while there was a consultation under way into decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee, there were no "preordained" decisions on future funding models.

Shapps told Sky News's Sophy Ridge On Sunday: "I would be pretty cautious of some unattributed comments.

"There is a consultation out there. It is just a consultation at this stage. There are no further decisions made at all.

"The BBC is a much loved national treasure. We all want it to be a huge success. But everybody, including the BBC themselves, recognises that in a changing world the BBC itself will have to change.

"But it is simply not the case that there is some preordained decision about the future funding of the BBC out there. The charter runs to 2027 so there is long way to go on all these decisions."

A No 10 spokeswoman declined to comment on the remarks.

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