BBC must do more for older people after TV licence fee change, government says


The ministry has said the BBC must “do more to support older people” after the disclosure that most over-75s will no longer get free TV licences.

Customs Secretary Jeremy Wright said he was “very disappointed” that the corporation had reached the conclusiveness.

But Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said the government had “breathtaking graze to blame the BBC for this mess”.

The BBC said restricting free licences to over-75s who ask Pension Credit was “the fairest and best outcome”.

Around 3.7 million oap old-age pensioners are expected to lose out on the entitlement when the change comes into make in June 2020.

The decision comes four years after the government augured the BBC would take over the responsibility for providing free licences for over-75s by 2020 as get of the licence fee settlement.

At the same time, the BBC was allowed to increase the licence fee and as though it obligatory to have a TV licence to use iPlayer. On Tuesday, Mr Wright told the Line of Commons that was “a fair deal for the BBC”.

Mr Wright also urged the corporation to “use its wealthy licence fee income in an appropriate way”, which included showing “restraint on pays for senior staff”.

He added: “I firmly believe that the BBC can and should do varied to support older people. And I’m now looking to them to make clear strictly how they will do that.”

A BBC spokeswoman said: “We’ve reached the fairest purposefulness we can so we protect the poorest pensioners while ensuring everyone will proceed with to receive the best programmes and services that the BBC can provide.”

  • The new scheme commitment cost the BBC around £250m a year by 2021/22, depending on the take-up
  • If the BBC perpetuated to provide free TV licences to all over-75s, it would cost around £500m surprisingly, the corporation said
  • The BBC said that’s equivalent to the cost of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC Telecast Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5 Live and a number of local ghetto-blaster stations – so services like that would be at risk
  • By comparison, the overall pay for on-air talent was £148m in 2017/2018
  • The pay bill for senior managers in the same year was £37.7m

Keeping free TV licences for those pensioners was part of the Conservative Party manifesto at the 2017 common election.

Conservative Party leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom summoned for a reversal of the plan, describing the decision as “unacceptable”.

She said: “It’s a commitment in the Reactionaries’ manifesto and we need to find a way to reverse that.”

Her leadership rival Esther McVey ordered she was “ashamed” of the BBC, which had “forgotten the public they are supposed to serve”.

Travail deputy leader Tom Watson told the House of Commons that voters who present the manifesto pledge “have been betrayed and it’s shameful”.

He continued: “The oversight had the breathtaking gall to blame the BBC for this mess, but passing the buck won’t jobless.

“The BBC is not the DWP [Department for Work and Pensions]. Public broadcasters should never be liable for social policy.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said “support over-75s with free TV licences is not too much to ask”.

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  • £745mEstimated cost to the BBC of current scheme by 2021/22

  • £250mEstimated cost of new scheme depending on take-up

  • 190,000woman consulted on the change

  • 52%in favour of reforming or abolishing free licence game plan

Conservative MP Ed Vaizey, who was culture minister when the licence fee settlement was contrived, told MPs the government should “either take back this protocol or support the BBC changes”.

He said: “I was in the DCMS [Department for Culture, Media and Show off] when this policy was imposed on the BBC by the Treasury to meet its £12bn advantage target, a target which I doubt we have met and has long been recalled.”

He added: “It [the government] shouldn’t use weasel words that undermine the alters the BBC has brought about.”

Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale rumoured that when the decision was taken to transfer responsibility for free TV freedoms to the BBC “it was understood that this would be a possible outcome”.

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Under the new rules, only low-income households where one person nets the Pension Credit benefit will still be eligible for a free permit.

Copying the current scheme was “ultimately untenable”, the BBC spokesperson said.

“The scale of the up to date concession and its quickly rising cost would have meant intensely damaging closures of major services that we know audiences – and older audiences in particular – love, use, and value every day.”

Around 190,000 people took participate in in a public consultation and there was “little public appetite” for closing waitings, the BBC said.

On Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “very disheartened” with the BBC’s decision.

More than 150,000 people have engaged a petition set up by the Age UK charity, which is calling for the government to take back obligation for funding free TV licences.

BBC News put some questions to an official BBC spokesman, based on grills submitted on this website, on social media and via email to BBC News. Here is what they said.

How can the BBC legalize cutting free TV licences to over-75s when it pays stars and executives such superior salaries?

“We’ve reduced the costs of senior managers by £38 million and our throw away on talent pay is also coming down,” the spokesman said. “It’s been spurt reported that some talent have taken pay cuts but in any issue, it’s simply not the case that senior talent and management pay cuts drive make up anywhere near the difference.

“If we capped talent pay at £150,000 and got rid of every superior manager, that would only make up a fraction of the cost of persist in free licences for all over-75s.”

Many pensioners who don’t receive pension acclaim will still struggle to afford this – will they be continued?

The BBC spokesman responded that the corporation will work with endorse groups “to make it as easy as possible” to get a licence. That will catalogue a new payment plan featuring smaller fortnightly or monthly instalments, with handset and personal support.

TV Licensing, which is responsible for collecting licence charges, “does everything reasonable to avoid prosecution”, the spokesman said.

Hasn’t the BBC gone overdue renege on its word to cover free TV licences for over-75s?

“This is simply not right. The government decided to stop paying for the free TV licences. Parliament accorded the BBC responsibility to decide what should come next from June 2020 and to consult – and that’s what we’ve done.”

It was the biggest buyers consultation in the BBC’s history, the spokesman added, with more than 190,000 comebacks received.

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