Daniel Craig, JK Rowling, David Attenborough, Judi Dench and Chris Evans are among the names who have signed a letter calling on the Tory Party not to "diminish" the BBC with a series of planned cuts and changes in editorial decision making.  

The letter, which describes the BBC as "the envy of the world", was delivered to 10 Downing Street and states "a diminished BBC would simply mean a diminished Britain. Like all organisations, it has its faults but it is overwhelmingly a creative force for good."

The Radio Times reports that this latest appeal comes as the BBC's annual report, published this week reveals that staff numbers at the corporation have gone up and that there was a higher spend on talent than last year.

Britain's Culture Secretary John Whittingdale today told MPs that a subscription model for paying for the BBC "could well be an option in the longer term" but the technology was not yet widely available in homes.

Last week the BBC agreed with the UK government to take on the cost of the over 75s' licence fee payments. Some quarters predict that this undertaking could amount to £750m by 2020/21.

In a speech yesterday, the Director General of the BBC Tony Hall said: "Let's not have a debate dominated by commercial interests and people with ideological preconceptions . . . and what they think of the BBC," he said. "We want an open and honest debate with the public about what they want from the BBC.

"The rest of the world envies the UK for having the BBC . . . On any measure this is a world class institution and any debate about the BBC must start with that fact."