Ditch the deal which will destroy the BBC and cause greater poverty among the elderly
18 February 2019
Age UK, the National Pensioners Convention and National Union of Journalists have told Sir David Clementi, chair of the BBC board, the corporation must admit that ending free licences for the over-75s is wrong-headed and divisive and tell the government it must take back responsibility for this benefit.
There are two million people aged 75-plus in Britain, half of whom are disabled and a quarter of whom say the television is their main form of companionship. Removing the universal free licence from this group would push at least 50,000 older people into poverty.
For the BBC to fund the concession from licence-fee payers would equally mean the end of our public service broadcaster as we know it. This clearly makes it an untenable prospect and will severely compromising the quality of the BBC’s output, the three organisations say.
A letter to the board, which includes Lord Hall, the BBC director general, says a well-resourced BBC is needed to provide us with impartial, trusted and accurate news and current affairs, particularly in an age when the proliferation of social media has led to distrust of news media.
“The public never voted to make the BBC the arbiter of welfare benefits,” the letter points out. “It is not our public service broadcaster’s function to decide whether one pensioner receives a free licence, and another does not. Indeed, to do so risks alienating the BBC in the public’s mind at a time when the corporation needs support from its listeners and viewers as never before in its history. It is government who should make such policy decisions and it is government who must fund this vital social policy.”
It added the 2015 secret deal between the BBC and ministers, when the corporation agreed to finance the benefit in return for the licence fee being linked to inflation, showed how vital it was for these settlements to take place in an accountable and transparent process, independent of the government of the day.
Full letter attached