When the BBC launched their consultation on the future of free TV licences for over-75s, I shared details about how to voice your opinion on my website; I do hope you were able to contribute.
As you will be aware, the government currently reimburse the BBC for free TV licences for over-75’s; from June 2020 responsibility for funding free licenses will transfer to the BBC. In light of this the BBC ran their largest consultation, which had over 190,000 responses, to ensure their decision on the future of free TV licences was based on opinions from people right across the country.
The consultation responses highlighted the majority of people did not think the free license should be completely abolished. However, at a cost of £745M per annum, maintaining the current concession for all over 75’s would have required cuts to current BBC services. The BBC have therefore looked to balance cuts affecting all service users against the benefits of maintaining the current concession.
I have spoken to many residents on this issue and have heard a wide range of opinions from people across the constituency. Generally feedback received suggests that, like the winter fuel allowance, people believe the concession should be means tested. Some constituents have shared their frustration that like the winter fuel allowance, they do not need this concessionary support. If people are happy to contribute towards the fantastic services provided by the BBC, I believe it is right and proper that they should be allowed to do so. However, for those who are on a low income and may struggle to afford the tv licence fee, it is only fair that the BBC should continue to support them.
To me, this seems to be the best solution for everyone. It allows the BBC to continue supporting pensioners with limited means whilst protecting services, by asking those who can afford it to contribute. Means testing the concession will still cost the BBC £250m, which is 6% of the BBC’s overall budget, but crucially will allow services such as BBC Two, BBC Four, Radio 5 Live, the Scotland Channel and local radio stations to continue.
Shortly, Television Licensing will be sending a letter to over-75s with further details of the change, and what they will be required to do. The BBC have announced they will run telephone support services and outreach visits to local community centres to discuss the process in further depth with residents. This will include providing details of a payment plan option to those who cannot afford the fee upfront.
I appreciate the BBC’s decision was not what some had hoped for. However, by providing a means-tested concession the BBC will be able to both protect services and support some of the most vulnerable pensioners in society.