CBeebies and CBBC programmes could be at risk if the BBC is put behind a paywall, the broadcaster’s chairman will warn.
During a speech in Salford, Sir David Clementi is expected to list examples of huge national events that would no longer be accessible to all under a subscription-based model.
He will say: “Sitting behind a paywall, it would no longer be the place that brings the country together – for the Strictly final, or Gavin & Stacey on Christmas Day, or the Armistice anniversary or Holocaust memorial.
“Nor would it be the place that all could turn to celebrate live important moments we enjoy as a nation: royal weddings or jubilees, or Olympic successes.”
Sir David is going to claim that it would no longer be possible to provide regional and local coverage at the same level – or invest in “homegrown ideas and talent to the benefit of our whole creative sector”.
The chairman will insist that the BBC is open to a “broad conversation” about its future and how it is funded – and that the public must be reminded about what is at stake before any decisions are made.
He will add: “The BBC will engage fully with the government’s consultation, but it must be based on the evidence.
“A decision of this scale, taking hundreds of millions out of the BBC and the creative economy, must not be taken in isolation.”
Sir David’s words come as the government consults on whether to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee – which will be £157.50 from April.
Currently, anyone who installs or uses a TV or watches BBC iPlayer without a licence is guilty of a criminal offence.
In 2018, more than 121,000 people were convicted and sentenced for evasion and issued with an average fine of £176.
There were about 26 million TV licences being used in the UK last year, which generated an income of £3.69bn for the BBC.
There have even been hints that the licence fee model could be abolished completely.
Some politicians have suggested turning the BBC into a subscription service, similar to Netflix, but the BBC’s supporters have responded by pointing out that Netflix does not cover news.
The BBC has also clashed with the government over plans to axe free TV licences for those aged over 75, which will hit 3.7 million pensioners when they have to start paying for them in June, although 900,000 receiving pension credit will not have to pay.
A few weeks ago, the broadcaster said it is planning to cut around 450 jobs to save tens of millions of pounds.