I have been campaigning to save free TV licences for the over 75s for some time now. So I was pleased to read Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report criticising the proposals to limit free TV licences to those people that are over 75 and claiming Pension Credit.
The BBC estimates that two thirds of people currently eligible for a free TV licence will no longer receive one. For those pensioners that are already struggling to afford essentials such as the weekly shop or household bills the additional cost will be unmanageable.
Negotiations between government and the BBC are described as being conducted in a hasty and secretive manner. Now it is reported that the BBC, due to increases in production costs, cannot afford to fund the £745million annual cost of free TV licences without significant cuts to broadcasting services. That’s far more than could be saved by cutting the salaries of their stars.
The National Union of Journalists point out that it’s not only free TV Licences that the government has raided the BBC’s coffers for. The licence fee has paid or is paying rural broadband rollout; local TV; funding of Welsh-language channel S4C, paying for the World Service and Monitoring Service; financing journalists employed by local newspapers to cover local democracy and funding commercial broadcasters to make children’s TV and radio.
Finally we get to the ridiculous position of the BBC having to encouraging people to take up Pension Credit so that they can claim their free TV license. The BBC should not be expected to administer a national welfare benefit.
What next, energy companies decide on the level Winter Fuel Payment? I call on the government to maintain free TV licences for the over 75s.