No Government bail-out for BBC to maintain free TV licences for all over 75s

16 March 2020

The DCMS Committee has published responses to recommendations of its predecessor Committee’s report which focused on proposed changes to the TV licence fee.

In its response, the Government said it was “disappointed” with the BBC’s decision to restrict the over 75 licence fee concession to only those in receipt of pension credit. It recognised the value of free TV licences for over 75s and believed they should be funded by the BBC.

The DCMS Committee’s report, published in October 2019, had found the 2015 funding negotiations that led to the BBC restrictions on free TV licences a process that was ‘flawed’ on all sides and one that gave no opportunity for consultation with licence fee payers.

MPs concluded that the next round of negotiations between the Government and the BBC should agree a funding formula that maintained free over 75s TV licences, specifically recommending that the Government set out proposals for how it could support this measure in future, alongside the commitment that had been made by the BBC.

Chair’s comments

DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight MP said:

“It’s clear from the government’s response that there will be no bail-out for the BBC to maintain free TV licences for the over 75s.

We note the government’s expression of mere disappointment at the BBC’s decision to restrict free licences. This approach struck the committee as little more than hand-wringing.

The BBC has told us about the number of hours those over 75 spend with the BBC and how they depend on it. It’s lamentable that it should be this group of people who will quite literally pay the penalty for a flawed charter renewal deal agreed in a rush behind closed doors.”

 

Anglia region members will be leafletting at James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston on Saturday, 1st February 11am-1pm in the public Aubergine restaurant on the 1st floor. 

Retain the free TV licence for the over 75s.

The National Pensioners Convention is calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to keep his pre-election promise and retain free TV licences for
over 75’s.

As the clock ticks down to the May 31 deadline when the universal benefit, first introduced in 1999, is scrapped the NPC – the campaigning organisation
for older people – says the PM must act fast.

NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt commented: “We appeal to the Prime Minister to be true to his word and save this vital benefit.

“Isolation and loneliness are huge issues for older people. For many their TV is their window on the world and the only company they have. With over
two million living below the poverty line, they simply can’t afford £154.40 for a TV licence.”

Mr Johnson is on record as saying it was ‘crucial’ to retain the benefit and he aimed to thrash out a new funding formula with the BBC, who were passed
the £745 million bill for the benefit by the Government. Speaking last November* he said he would hold talks with the BBC as the issue needed
‘sorting out urgently.’ However in an interview with BBC yesterday (14th January) – the PM’s first of 2020 – he made no mention of the issue.

The BBC says it cannot afford to fund all free licences for over 75’s and plans to means-test older people by giving it only to those who receive Pension Credit.

The NPC strongly believes the Government, not the BBC, have responsibility for funding the free over 75’s licence as part of a wider package of
universal pensioner benefits in lieu of a decent state pension.

Jan Shortt said: “We call on the Government to respect this and take the free licence back under the benefits umbrella as a matter of urgency to give
peace of mind to those worried about how they will manage to pay.”

Research by Age UK, working alongside the NPC to campaign for free TV licences for all over-75s, shows many people will fall through the
means-testing net, and that 50,000 could be pushed below the poverty line if the BBC plan goes ahead. The charity says more than two million over 75s
will have to go without TV or cut back on heating and food in order to remain informed, entertained, stimulated and connected to the world beyond
their doorstep. Age UK has sent a 634,334 signature petition to 10 Downing Street to call for the free licence to be saved.

*The Prime Minister was speaking in a pre-election interview with The Sun on Sunday in November 2019.

The National Pensioners Convention was set up in 1979 to champion the rights and welfare of the UK’s older people. It now represents more than 1.5
million people in over 1000 different organisations across the UK. It holds an annual pensioner’s parliament which debates current issues affecting the
nation’s older population. The 2020 National Pensioners Annual Convention – previously known as the NPC Pensioners’ Parliament – will be held in
Southport from June 2 to 4, 2020. To find out more about the NPC and the Annual Convention please email <mailto:info@npcuk.org> info@npcuk.org

For further information, or to arrange an interview with NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt, please contact:

Beverley Morrison

Campaign & Media Officer
National Pensioners Convention
Marchmont Community Centre
62 Marchmont Street
London WC1N 1AB
Telephone: 020-7837-6622 or 07588 779515

<mailto:bevmorrison@npcuk.org> bevmorrison@npcuk.org or
<mailto:info@npcuk.org> info@npcuk.org

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