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UK to freeze BBC licence fee for two years amid 'partygate' scandal

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By Euronews  with AFP
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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing on COVID-19, in Downing Street, London, Dec. 15, 2021.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing on COVID-19, in Downing Street, London, Dec. 15, 2021.   -   Copyright  Tolga Akmen / AP

The UK said it would freeze the BBC's licence fee while the opposition claimed the move was meant to create a distraction from the prime minister's current scandals.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries tweeted on Sunday that the current system, whereby all television set owners must pay an annual licence fee, will end after 2027. The government said they would freeze the licence fee until 2024.

"The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors, are over," wrote Dorries.

Shadow culture, media and sport secretary Lucy Powell said Dorries was the first to create a "distraction" by "finding someone else to blame for the prime minister's disintegrating leadership".

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson's future has been thrown into doubt following revelations of illegal parties held at Downing Street during COVID-19 lockdown.

The "partygate" scandal has so far seen six of his Conservative party MPs openly call for his resignation, with dozens more said to have done the same behind closed doors.

Some say Johnson's team has issued several populist proposals to shore up support for the prime minister.

A string of celebrities has rallied to defend the UK public broadcaster.

Actor Hugh Grant called the BBC, whose TV, radio and online services are funded by the £159-a-year licence fee, "something the whole world admires with envy", accusing the government of wanting to destroy it.

Former England footballer and BBC sports presenter Gary Linker called it "the most treasured of national treasures".

It "should never be a voice for those in government, whoever is in power", he added.