Thursday, 15 Apr 2021

Treat pensioners with respect! BBC urged to immediately axe licence fee by cross-party MPs

BBC licence fee increase is slammed by hosts

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The Government last month said the annual fee would increase from £157.50 to £159 from April 1, 2021, with black and white licences rising from £53.00 to £53.50. The licence fee pays for BBC shows and services – including TV, radio, the BBC website, podcasts, iPlayer and apps.

But at the House of Commons Petitions Committee, MPs said Brits should have a choice of whether they pay for it.

Cross-party MPs were discussing a 110,00 signature petition which asks for the TV licence fee to be revoked “as soon as possible”.

Mark Eastwood, Tory MP for Dewsbury, said: “We live in a modern age where we have the ability to choose from a multitude of channels on subscription.

“With the BBC, we don’t get the choice, and are forced to pay for the TV licence regardless of whether we watch it or not.

“In the new era of broadcasting and subscription services, the requirement to have to pay for a licence is becoming ever more obsolete.”

The Tory backbencher claimed if the BBC was “truly a national treasure,” he stressed it “would thrive as a subscription channel or by financing itself through commercial advertising.”

Stoke on Trent North MP Jonathan Gullis cited a poll he undertook asking his constituents whether the fee should be scrapped.

Mr Gullis claimed 96 percent of them were in favour of the fee being scrapped completely.

The Conservative politician added: “This overwhelming response should be an urgent wake-up call that something must change at the BBC.

“I can confidently say there is one service which doesn’t offer value for money in my opinion and that is the BBC.

“I am not alone in thinking that either.”

MPs also discussed the issue of free licence privileges for over 75’s which were removed last August, with only OAPs receiving Pension Credit entitled to a free one.

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Ministers said keeping licences free for all over-75s would cost £745million by the next financial year.

Letters have been sent by the Corporation to over-75s asking them to “arrange payment” or apply for a free licence if they were entitled to one before further action is taken.

Rosie Cooper, Labour MP for West Lancashire, said: “At a time when many pensioners have spent the year alone, rarely if ever seeing loved ones, it is deeply upsetting that some may have been placed in financial difficulty or left unable to afford of the most basic comforts once afforded to them.

“The withdrawal of the TV licence for over-75s in August last year was a shameful example of the lack of compassion the Government has for older people.

“I want to see the BBC and Government treat pensioners as well as they treat their celebrities.”

Brendan Clarke-Smith, Tory MP for Bassetlaw, added: “It is fundamentally wrong that many constituents over the age of 75 have had their free TV licenses taken away from them.

“We all know that tough decisions need to be made, but this pre-dates COVID and I believe has lost the BBC a lot of public support.”

Mr Eastwood claimed it was a “national disgrace” that people could be subject to criminal proceedings if they do not pay the licence fee.

Campaign group the TaxPayers’ Alliance slated the reminder letters being sent to OAPs with a spokesman adding: “These bullying BBC letters represent a ridiculous waste of money.

“People are being chased for an ever more expensive TV tax at a time when hard-pressed households are struggling to make ends meet.”

Culture Minister John Whittingdale said the BBC licence fee could be replaced with a Netflix-style subscription service but only when broadband rollout improves.

Speaking at the Committee today, the Tory minister said: “Young people are turning more and more to video-on-demand services.

“That does beg the question about whether or not the licence fee model, which has been based on the fact that everybody used the BBC, can continue.

“The rollout of broadband is very fast, we will reach universal coverage, and there will come a time when it would be possible for us to move towards a full subscription service for everybody, but that time has not yet arrived.”

In response, a BBC spokeswoman said: “The BBC has repeatedly said that we are willing to work with government and charities on the smooth implementation of the new policy after the government ended funding.

“We have done so and will continue to do so.

“The vast majority of over-75s have now moved to the new system with only a small proportion now remaining.”

The spokeswoman stressed over the last six months, they had sent “two reminders to those left explaining the simple steps to take and reassuring them that they have plenty of time to get set up.”

They continued: “We are not visiting households registered as having held a free over-75s licence.

“As a result of the latest lockdown measures TV Licensing has currently suspended all visiting activity.”

A TV Licensing spokesperson, added: “We have implemented these changes with the greatest care and have worked to make the process as fair and straightforward as possible.”

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