A Cabinet minister has played down reports that Downing Street wants to axe the TV licence fee and fund the BBC through viewer subscriptions.

A senior source in No 10 had reportedly signalled a new onslaught on the broadcaster, suggesting the BBC could be forced to sell off most of its radio stations in a “massive pruning back” of its activities.

The Government insider said Boris Johnson was “really strident” on the need for serious reform and there would be a consultation on replacing the licence fee with a subscription model, warning: “We will whack it.”

But Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, made clear while there was a consultation under way into decriminalising the non-payment of the licence fee, there were no “preordained” decisions on future funding models.

Mr Shapps told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday that people should be “pretty cautious of some unattributed comments”

He went on: “The BBC is a much-loved national treasure; we all want it to be a huge success. But everybody, including the BBC themselves, recognises that in a changing world the BBC itself will have to change.”

The minister added: “It is simply not the case there is some preordained decision about the future funding of the BBC out there. The charter runs to 2027 so there is long way to go on all these decisions.”