The former newspaper and BBC journalist is taking on Damian Collins, who was chairman of the committee before the last election. Mr Knight said: “It’s time for a root and branch, no holds barred review into the future of the BBC – how it is funded and what its role should be in our national life.” Comparing the licence fee to “a poll tax”, he added: “I have had lots of emails from constituents who feel that Auntie has badly lost her way, particularly over its reporting of Brexit but more generally in its metropolitan outlook on our lives.
“As a result, more and more constituents are asking me why, when they feel out of touch with the BBC, they are faced with a stark choice to pay the licence fee or go to prison?
“And I don’t have an answer for them.”
As a former BBC journalist he said he has “huge affection” for the corporation but warned it has become the home of “snarky, tweeting celebs and executives with bewildering job titles, paid more than the Prime Minister.”
He also said that changes in the television market mean people are now choosing alternatives to the BBC, like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
He noted: “Ordinary people can be informed, educated and entertained without ever coming into contact with the BBC, yet we all pay a poll tax regardless.”
But he warned that the push to end the licence fee tax on every household and replace it with a subscription model is partly down to the BBC’s decision to renegue on its promise to pay for the over-75s’ free licence.
He said: “The BBC wants to go back on the deal and make some of my most vulnerable constituents pay.” And visiting the elderly, he sees “how much of a comfort and companion television is.
“By targeting these people the BBC broke a bond with Britain. They put their own interests over serving the people who had paid their salaries.
“It was a PR catastrophe and… the Government must pursue them over this.”
He also echoed concerns about the apparent strong pro-Remain bias on the BBC having damaged its reputation for fairness.
He said: “The BBC during Brexit… seemed to represent their own internal opinions ‘groupthink’ rather than a broad breadth of the country’s views, both leave and remain.
And his answer to tackling what is seen as BBC bias?
“Reforming the way the BBC is funded and encouraging it to use more outside production, make more lucrative use of its fantastic back catalogue to fund programmes can be key to changing the culture at the BBC.
“It is the current cosseted economics of the BBC that allow it to indulge in groupthink.”