The BBC’s licence fee settlement should be opened up for examination in light of the “disturbing” influence of Rupert Murdoch and his media empire, the NUJ has said.

General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said there were questions over whether prime minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne had been swayed over their decision to freeze the licence fee, describing the government as “in thrall to Rupert Murdoch”.

The settlement, revealed last October, was conducted in just a few days and led to a number of surprise decisions, including the BBC taking on funding for the World Service and S4C while coping with a licence fee freeze, which is resulting in 20% cuts being made across the corporation.

Stanistreet said: ““The shabby deal on the BBC licence fee settlement was done behind closed doors last autumn, with no democratic scrutiny or transparent discussion. It marked a watershed in the corporation’s 89-year history.

“Quality public service journalism and the BBC audience are suffering the consequences of this deal, clearly taken at a time when huge pressure was being exerted by News International executives.”

She highlighted a claim made on Channel 4 News that Gordon Brown felt Murdoch’s news empire turned against him because “he refused to adopt their demands, cutting back BBC TV and online services and the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, too”.  

Stanistreet said: “It is vital that the dodgy licence fee deal should now be re-examined as a matter of urgency in light of recent developments. The deal should be undone and there should be the proper transparent and open debate with staff and stakeholders about the future funding of the BBC that was called for – and ignored by the government – at the time.”