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Tuesday, 21 July 2020

BBC's Response to Over-75 TV Licence Complaints

Not surprisingly the BBC has been inundated with complaints about its proposals to tighten the eligibility criteria for the concessionary over-75 TV licence.

If you've seen our previous articles, you will be in no doubt at all that the BBC happily accepted full liability for the over-75 TV licence from 2020/21.

Only now, with the gluttonous national broadcaster having to put TV licence payers' money where its mouth is, has the BBC reneged that part of its financial settlement agreement with the Government.

The Corporation has just released the following complaint response. Just as you'd expect, according to the BBC it's all the Government's fault that it has been left in such a perilous financial situation that it needs to make savings on the over-75 TV licence.

It no doubt hopes that people will erase from their memories the hundreds of millions squandered on pointless initiatives and reckless extravagence.

The full text of the BBC's response:
The Government decided to stop funding free TV licences for all over 75s from June 2020. Parliament - under the law - then gave the BBC the power to decide the future and consult. The difference is any funding would have to come from the BBC’s budget for programmes and services.

We consulted and over 190,000 people took part - this was the largest consultation the BBC has ever run. There was a small majority who wanted to change the concession and many who felt strongly that the concession should continue. There was little support for abolishing the concession. Many raised pensioner poverty and social isolation as key concerns, others raised concerns about cuts to the BBC. There was little public appetite to cut BBC services.

The BBC decided that the fairest thing to do was protect the poorest older pensioners - that is why we decided to provide free TV licences to those over 75 who receive Pension Credit. This will cost the BBC £250 million, around 6% of the budget. This was also the fairest thing to do for all licence fee payers, because the overall cost of continuing the scheme for everyone would be £745 million and rising. This would lead to profoundly damaging cuts and closures of key BBC services including BBC Two, BBC Four, Radio 5 Live, the Scotland Channel and some local radio stations.

Some people have suggested that the £745 million cost of paying for free TV licences for all those over 75 could be covered if we cut pay for our talent, senior managers and staff. This is simply not true. Even if we stopped employing every presenter currently earning over £150,000 that would save less than £20 million. If no senior manager were paid over £150,000 that would save £5 million. This would not make up anywhere near the difference.

This was not an easy decision to make, but we put fairness at the heart of our decision – fairness to the poorest older pensioners and fairness to all licence fee payers. If we had continued with the scheme in its current form, its quickly rising cost would have meant profoundly damaging closures of major services that we know audiences - and older audiences in particular - love, use, and value every day.

We delayed the introduction of the new scheme as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The scheme will now move forward on 1 August, but safety will be at its heart:
  • Implementation of the new scheme will be Covid-19 safe. No one needs to take any immediate action, or leave their home, to claim for a free TV licence or pay for one
  • TV Licensing will be writing to all over 75 licence holders with clear guidance. For those who now need to pay, they have a range of options and can choose to pay weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, if they don’t want to pay the licence fee all in one go
  • We have set up specialist telephone contact centres to help people. People can also go online
  • The BBC has been working with a range of external organisations to help support people during this time
We hope this has explained the position. The information you can read HERE has further detail, including reports from the consultation which the BBC Board considered before reaching its decision.

If you or someone you know is approaching or is over 75 there is no need to do anything, since the free licence continues until 1 August and TV Licensing will be in touch before then about what to do. If you need more information about this please visit www.tvlicensing.co.uk/age.
There we have it - yet more abdication of responsibility by the BBC.

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