The BBC’s decision to stop funding free TV licences for all over 75s from June 2020 is very disappointing. This was not the understanding when the Government agreed a funding settlement and gave more autonomy to the BBC for operating the licence system.
For most of us, television is an important connection with the outside world that informs and entertains. It also has a role in keeping people company, and this can be especially true for older people. I know from my own relatives and constituents just how important television is in their lives. This is why I was disappointed that the BBC announced the most narrowly defined option for reform of the over 75s concession.
It is important to note that this was the BBC’s decision and not the Government’s, after Parliament legislated to give the BBC the full responsibility from 2020. This was part of a deal the Government reached with the BBC over four years ago, which the BBC described as a good deal that provided financial stability to the organisation through inflation linked increases of the licence fee and the closure of the so-called iPlayer loophole.
As you will be aware, even under the BBC’s current plans, the poorest pensioners will continue to be helped, as the BBC stated that those eligible for Pension Credit will still receive a free TV licence. However, I do not believe that this is the end of the conversation about what the BBC can do to assist older people. My colleague, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has already met the BBC to press them to consider further help they can provide and he has my full support.