The Prime Minister said he was “certainly looking at” abolishing all TV licences – casting doubt on the corporation’s funding as he toured target seats in the run-up to Thursday’s general election.
Speaking in Washington Tyne and Wear, he said: “You have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach to funding a TV, a media organisation still makes sense in the long-term given the way other organisations manage to fund themselves – that’s all I will say.
“I think that the system of funding by what is effectively a general tax, isn’t it, everybody has a TV, it bears reflection – let me put it that way.
“How long can you justify a system whereby everybody who has a TV has to pay to fund a particular set of TV and radio channels – that is the question.”
The alert came as the chicken Tory leader continued to run away from a prime time grilling with BBC TV presenter Andrew Neil.
The veteran broadcaster launched a furious tirade against the PM’s ongoing no-show saying he had “questions we’d like to put to Mr Johnson so you can hear his replies. But we can’t, because he won’t sit down with us”.
He added: “There is no law, no Supreme Court ruling, that can force Mr Johnson to participate in a BBC leaders’ interview.
“But the Prime Minister of our nation will, at times, have to stand up to President Trump, President Putin, President Xi of China.
“So it was surely not expecting too much that he spend half an hour standing up to me.”
Mr Johnson appeared to hit back with a warning over the abolition of the licence fee.
“Well, I don’t think at this late stage in the campaign I’m going to make an unfunded spending commitment like that, but what I certainly think is that the BBC should cough up and pay for the licences for the over-75s as they promised to do,” he said.
“But at this stage we are not planning to get rid of all TV licence fees, though I am certainly looking at it.”
The PM’s comments came two months after Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan revealed she was “open minded” as to how the BBC was funded.
She told the Culture Select Committee: “I will have decisions and listen to evidence on all sides. What I haven’t seen is any evidence, either way, what a subscription-based system would do in terms of the revenue.
“The licence fee last year raised £3.7billion for the BBC. They obviously have other sources of income as well. So I would need to understand what, if you were going to change, that would do to their income.”
Conservative Campaign Headquarters has already waged war on Channel 4 after the PM was replaced with an ice sculpture during a climate change debate.
And election chiefs last month banned the Mirror from the Tory battle bus.