Theresa May demands BBC to rethink decision to scrap free TV licence for millions of OAPs – The Sun
THERESA May last night demanded the BBC rethink its decision to scrap the free TV licence for millions of pensioners.
The Beeb sparked outrage with its decision to start means-testing for the giveaway.
It means only over-75s who receive Pension Credit will be eligible to claim the free TV licence fee from June 1 next year.
It will see 3.7 million over-75s dragged into paying the £154.50 licence fee – the first time the age group will have to pay the charge since 2000.
Only 1.5 million will continue to get the free TV licence. Single OAPs over the age of 75 with a weekly income of less than £167.75 or couples with a weekly income of less than £255.25 will continue to qualify for the free TV licence.
The PM said she was “very disappointed” with the decision and said it was a clear breach of its commitment to take on the financial burden of providing the giveaway.
In a furious response to the announcement, the PM’s spokesman said: “We have been clear that we expected the BBC to continue this concession. We want the BBC to look again at ways of supporting older people.”
DIRECTLY IMPACT THE SICK AND DISABLED
He added: “As part of the long-term funding agreement, the BBC agreed to take on responsibility for this concession in 2020 and we have been clear that we expected the BBC to continue this concession.
“In 2017/18, it received over £3.8 billion in licence fee income – more than the year before – and we have guaranteed the licence fee will increase with inflation until 2022.
“They are also making over £1 billion a year from commercial work, such as selling content abroad, which can be reinvested.
“It is the BBC’s responsibility to ensure its substantial licence fee income is used in an appropriate way so that it can deliver for UK audiences.”
But critics blasted the PM for passing the buck – pointing out that her 2017 General Election manifesto pledged to keep the free TV licence.
The Age UK charity warned the move will directly impact the sick and disabled.
Labour’s former PM Gordon Brown warned that the move risked turning pensioners into criminals.
He stormed: “This is the wrong decision, made in the wrong way by the BBC.
FINANCIAL BURDEN OF FREE LICENCES
“It should not be an agency for means-testing pensioners. Any costs should be covered by the Government without endangering BBC services.”
And Labour’s deputy leader and Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson blamed the Government’s decision to handover control and burden of paying for free licences to the BBC as part of its new charter.
Mr Watson said: “It is an outrage that this Government is overseeing the scrapping of free TV licences for three million older people, leaving a Tory manifesto promise in tatters.
“I challenge all Tory leadership candidates to honour the commitment they made in 2017. You cannot means-test for social isolation.
“You cannot means-test for loneliness. Millions of elderly and isolated people will lose because of this announcement.”
The new scheme will cost the BBC around £250 million by 2021/22, depending on the take-up.
BBC director-general Tony Hall said the decision was “difficult” but was the “fairest for the poorest pensioners”.
It said that if it bore the full financial burden of the free licences, the extra cost would have meant “unprecedented closures”.
ATTEMPTING TO FRAME THE MOVE AS FAIR
This would have included the closures of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5live and a number of local radio stations, as well as other cuts and reductions.
But the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) branded the decision to means-test licence fees “a wrongheaded act of sabotage by a government”, and urged the Government to take back responsibility for financing the benefit.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Journalists and programme-makers have borne the brunt of cuts at the BBC for many years and have simply had enough of the BBC being victim to political grandstanding.”
The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) also turned on the Government following the announcement, and condemned the BBC for attempting to frame the move as fair.
NPC general secretary Jan Shortt said: “There is no doubt that the BBC has done the Government’s dirty work for it.
“Pensioner poverty is now increasing, loneliness is reaching crisis levels among older people and the BBC has the bare-faced cheek to call this fair. It’s an absolute disgrace.”
Conservative Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said: “The ending of historically free TV licences for all those over 75, regardless of income, will mark a significant departure for the BBC and nearly four million pensioners who don’t pay for it.
“We at the DCMS Committee will continue to monitor the BBC, and in particular the impact that this cost will have on the BBC’s future and its programming.
“The select committee intends to question the chairman and director-general of the BBC about the results of its consultation and the impact this will have on viewers and listeners.”
The free licence fee was first paid for by a Labour government in 2000.
ONLY THE POOREST AREN'T HIT: Q&A
WHO is affected by this?
Around 3.7 million over-75s who are not eligible to claim Pension Credit.
Single OAPs over 75 with a weekly income of less than £167.75 or couples with a weekly in- come of less than £255.25 will continue to qualify for the free TV licence.
An estimated 1.5 million over-75s will continue to get the free TV licence.
When will the changes come in?
June 1, 2020.
Why is this happening?
Because David Cameron’s government decided to hand over control and the burden of funding the TV licence fee to the BBC as part of the new charter agreement with the broadcaster.
Is it likely to be reviewed?
A future government might review the decision to hand control of the fee to the BBC, but the broadcaster is unlikely to change its decision by itself having consulted widely on the move.
Here's where the money goes:
THE BBC spends fortunes on its highly-paid stars’ salaries. Yet just £2.4billion of the £5.1billion annual budget went on making programmes, recent accounts show.
Letters threatening non-payers of the licence fee cost £6million in 2017. Other cash was blown on unused hotel rooms and taxis.
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