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Sunday, 19 July 2020

Tory MPs Pile Pressure on BBC to Retain Universal Over-75 TV Licence Concession

Sixty-six Conservative MPs have written to the BBC Director General to slam the Corporation's abandonment of older viewers.

The group, led by Jonathan Gullis MP, described the BBC's decision to renege on its commitment to the over-75 TV licence as a "kick in the teeth" for millions of pensioners.

They state: "The BBC's annual income is £5 billion. Why, then, is this announcement necessary?

"We question the need for the BBC to allocate the enormous sum of £100 million on diversity, which with strong management could be achieved for minimal cost.

"Reducing the excessive salaries of your highest-paid stars and executives would also provide ample financial respite.

"The fact that you have prioritised pensioners to take the brunt of your cost-savings shows how detached you have become from your viewers. Now is not the time to scrap free TV licences for over-75s."

We have previously discussed the BBC's proposed changes to the over-75 TV licence in quite some detail, so won't repeat earlier comments now.

Putting it bluntly, the BBC was perfectly happy to accept "full liability for the over-75 TV licence from 2020/21" as part of the Royal Charter deal it struck with the Government back in 2015.

Despite the terms of its agreement with the Government being plain for all to see, the BBC denies it has backtracked on its commitment to the over-75s.

Instead, despite Tony Hall lauding the financial settlement at the time (see following video), the BBC continues to plead poverty and points the finger of blame squarely at the Government.

Perish the thought that the BBC's current predicament might be due to the fact that it pisses away public money left, right and centre.

A BBC spokesman said: "It was the Government who decided to stop funding free TV licences for the over 75s.

"The decision to start the new scheme in August has not been easy, but we could not continue delaying without profoundly impacting the programmes and services all audiences love.

"Continuing with the Government scheme would have meant the closure of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5live and 5live Sports Extra, and a number of local radio stations.

"We have said many times that if the BBC employed no presenters paid over £150k that would only save £10 million, which is no way near the £745 million and rising needed to fund free licences for all over 75s.

"Our £100 million diversity pledge is not new money; it is a prioritisation from our existing budget for new programmes... Having more people from diverse backgrounds to truly reflect the public... is a good thing the BBC wants to achieve."

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