MPs call for restoration of free TV licences for the over-75s

11 October 2019

The House of Commons media select committee criticised the BBC for ‘poor management, leadership and governance’

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MPs are urging the government and the BBC to work together to restore TV licences to the over-75s.

The House of Commons media select committee is calling on TV bosses and the government to agree a deal so that free TV licences can continue after 2020.

In its report, the committee says the BBC should have acted earlier to communicate the likelihood that it would not be able to fund a full licence fee concession for people over 75 from 2020.

It slammed the government for seeking to ‘bounce’ the BBC into accepting a deal that would make the BBC responsible for funding TV licences.

The BBC Director-General Tony Hall was also criticised for his handling of negotiations, particularly in failing to seek the formal agreement of the executive board before recommending to the BBC Trust the deal struck with the government.

In 2015, the government announced it would no longer subsidise the cost of the licence fee and the BBC would have to find the funding itself.

At the moment everyone aged over the age of 75 gets it free but as of next June they will have to pay the £154.50 a year themselves.

The BBC has said that from next year anyone over 75 and claiming pension credits will get a free TV licence.

However, the committee claims that the BBC has put itself in the “absurd situation” of being the administrator of welfare benefits that should only ever be implemented by the government.

Conservative MP Damian Collins, chair of the committee, says: “This is an invidious position for the BBC to put itself in.

"It agreed to fund a pensioner benefit that it couldn’t afford and as a result, false reassurances were given to the over 75s that their free licence fees would be maintained.

“The BBC and the government much reach an agreement to allow the funding of free licence fees for the over 75s to continue after 2020.”

The committee concludes that the government and the BBC should agree a funding formula for free licences for the over-75s when negotiations next take place in 2021.

Fury at axing

After the government shifted the cost of the licence fee for over-75s to the BBC the corporation was left to choose between scrapping the concession for the elderly or cutting broadcasting services.

The cost of funding the TV licence for people aged over 75 is £745 million a year.

The BBC says that to renew the scheme would cost around a fifth of its budget - the equivalent to what it spends on BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, CBBC and CBeebies.

The scrapping of the licence means up to 3.7 million pensioners will have to start paying from June 2020.

The decision to remove free licences for the over-75s has drawn widespread criticism and could even force the elderly into poverty.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says: “Over the last few months it has become clear that the BBC’s plan to means-test these licences for over-75s from June 2020 will result in significant numbers being forced to choose between buying a licence, cutting back on essentials like heating and eating, or continuing watching the TV without a licence, thereby breaking the law.

“In addition, requiring the millions of people in this age group to buy a licence or prove their eligibility for a free one, in many cases for the first time in donkey’s years, is a recipe for chaos and for a lot of accidental non-compliance.”

Sir David Clementi, chairman of the BBC, says: “The committee say that the government’s process in 2015 was flawed and we agree with this. It was never a process the BBC would have chosen.

"That’s why there must be a different way of doing things in the future. In terms of the agreement itself, we are satisfied that it was properly discussed within the BBC and properly authorised.”

“We will continue to implement the decision we have taken - after extensive consultation – on over 75s licence fees with great care and responsibility.”

Comments

Free TV licences for the over-75s

I think the real problem is the failure of the BBC to cut costs and its decisions to award higher paid staff inflation busting salary increases year after year. Let's do something else instead. Let's get rid of the administraion costs of selling, tracing, deciding whether TV licences are necessary or not, enforcement. That will get reduce the annual cost by at least £100 million per year. That reduces the licence cost to £140 per year. The licence fee is already classified as a tax, so let's add the £140 to each person's tax bill. Most over-75s are under the tax threshold, so they won't pay anything, and the ones that aren't will pay £140 more. As the
Government is collecting the tax from tax-payers, they can make a block grant to the BBC each year and hold the BBC more accountable. The BBC claims they are independent but that's not really true. A large part of their income comes from commercial activities, so they are not independent in respect of the buyers. If the BBC's independence was scrutinised by Parliament with a guaranteed free vote by MPs, this would surely solve any claim that the Government could politicise the BBC and Parliament can decide upon the annual increases to the block grant.

A Pontius Pilate Act

The gut-grinding elements of the intention by the BBC to remove free TV licences are manifold which require immediate and radical actions to resolve:
1. The BBC have not changed their culture at the top of self-serving agendas and incompetence, in managing their enormous income, despite the negotiations with the government and the failed Trust to change the codes of practice for the better. Chris Patten failed as Chairman of the Trust and no one has the power to knock the current DG into shape or get rid of him.
2. There are too many unchallenged and specious arguments and threats exploited by the BBC in equating the loss of revenue to removing free licences for the over-75s with dropping programmes. Frankly, there is so much rubbish supplied by the BBC that, if removed, would pay for the continued free licences.
3. The criteria for claiming licence fees are totally behind the times. The concept of charging was introduced when the BBC held a total monopoly of broadcasting services. They are now one of many broadcasters, most of whom provide a better service, not targeted to a lowest common denominator. With many of their outputs the BBC lead the field in the race to the bottom in broadcasting quality.
4. The BBC has done little to bring in non-celebrity talent to remove the biggest snouts paid for by a public that discarded the BBC many years ago when they started to lose their monopoly. And the interesting thing is that the programmes during those monopolistic years were of a better quality, which all goes to emphasise the conclusion that competition has left the BBC far behind. It’s an institution that does not understand accountability, an inevitable outcome when their income is driven by governmental legislation requiring a BBC tax on the public, with no accountability other than ensuring that the top echelon keep their noses buried in the trough.
5. The current government conspired to lumber the BBC with the cost of maintaining free licences for senior citizens. It was a gutless act that has now produced a plethora of disingenuous and populist condemnations of the BBC by the politicians.

I could go on sublimating my anger to being forced to pay for a service that I don’t spend any significant time with, as applies to the vast majority of radio and tv viewers. If the BBC had to work competitively for public funds then that would expose further the incompetence at top management levels. It’s just too comfortable for this effortless and anachronistic body To continue to be showered with legally-enforced payments for a down-market and largely irrelevant service.

BT

I been overcharged before and all doggy salesman make me confused when I talks to them .
The Broadband speed is not as they said and on and off cutting line, complained several times but no use.
Once I saud I want to change the user and they said my landline number will be take off. All my doctors, hospitals, friends and relatives abroad all got my number and therefore I have to back up.

TV Licence

The government should cancel the deal they did with BBC re licence fee increases and Paying for Free TV Licences for over 75's, government should pay it but reduce Licence fee then freeze for 10 years. I am only 72 living on just my old state pension as I have savings because I saved, never had a proper holiday in my life so punished for it now. A person who contributed on new pension gets £168 and a person who who never contributed or less than 35 years gets £168 GPC, under what reasoning should a person on GPC get a Free TV Licence and the host of other freebies and benefits they get by default, they are richer than other pensioners and never contributed, I know it is correct as my ex wife gets it all plus a free house and council tax. The Free TV Licence should go to all over 75's or no one, stop ripping off the people who paid the money into the state pension fund, they should be better off than those who never paid into it or paid less than the qualifying amount. There is no account made for people owning their own home having to pay extra insurance, maintenance and servicing of boilers and such, those with subsidised social housing don't have these things to pay out as it's all done for them. While at it the bus pass should go back to the system before Brown's bribe and charge a fixed fee for each trip, try 50p, it worked great years ago, winter fuel allowance should all so be taxed if household income over £12,500. Stop all the freebie benefits to everyone and make people prepare for their own retirement if they want better than the state pension. Those on old pension are worse off each year than those on new pension as the percentage increase makes the gap wider each year, we should all receive the same cash vale increase based on the new pension rate and the gap between them a fixed figure.

BBC Licence

Abolish TV licences ,the BBC is so politically biased it no longer deserves to be funded by us

free TV licences

Why on Earth should old people , who probably watch more TV, get it free?

TV Licence Charges

Surely the answer is for the BBC to follow the lead of the self funding channels and introduce advertising between their programmes. Payment for advertising by manufacturers at peak viewing times is significant and as with the other channels, anyone not wanting to watch adverts can simply record the programmes and then fast forward the ads. Why is this such a big issue.

Over 75's paying for there License.

Why don't the BBC start advertising like the rest of the other channels.
They don't advertise any other branded products at the moment, but fill in time between programmes with a load of there own rubbish advertising their own programmes so really there's no difference!
The only BBC programme I watch is the BBC News, then their biased.

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