I am sorry that the BBC – not the Government – has decided to end the concession for people aged over 75 on TV licences. The Government made it clear when it gave the BBC power of decision on TV licences (which the BBC described as a “good deal” at the time) that the Government expected the concession to remain in place. Since the BBC announced the change of policy, Ministers have made it clear repeatedly that the BBC should restore the concession. While it was welcome that the BBC delayed the initial plan to charge from June, I am concerned that the Corporation still plans to introduce the charge later this year.
My view is that the BBC funding settlement is a good deal for the Corporation, and that if it needs to rebalance its finances, the way to do this is to review how it spends the money it receives from the taxpayer to prioritise public service broadcasting – which is the primary reason for the Corporation’s existence – and review the production of content which is not good value for taxpayers. This could include areas where BBC output duplicates the content of commercial broadcasters.
Under the 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 know Ministers are maintaining pressure on the BBC to have a rethink. I am writing to the BBC’s Director-General, Lord Hall, and his successor Tim Davie – who takes up the position in September – to urge them to reconsider their plans as well.