BBC boss Lord Hall on free TV licence axe: ‘We’re following government deal’

Last month, the BBC announced it will controversially scrap blanket free licences for over-75s.

It means, from June next year, a free TV licence will only be available to households with someone over 75 who receives pension credit.

Campaigners have argued against the move, which will likely see millions of over-75s now having to stump up the annual £154.50 fee for a colour licence.

The free TV licences were introduced in 2000 but – as part of a new charter agreement negotiated in 2015 – the BBC agreed to take on the cost from the government.

Despite criticism of the BBC’s decision to scrap universal free TV licences, Lord Hall said the corporation had carried out its agreement with the government “to the letter”.

He told the House of Commons’ digital, culture, media and sport committee, the BBC had been “completely consistent about the reforms we would need to make to live with the budget means we were set”.

Lord Hall claimed it was the government which was “withdrawing the concession” and disputed the assertion, from committee chair and Conservative MP Damian Collins, that the BBC were “net gainers from this process”.

Mr Collins suggested the value of the concessions the BBC was given as part of the charter agreement – including an increase to the licence fee – was worth “about £700m”.

Lord Hall told MPs: “The idea we are not honouring the agreement is wrong, I really refute that and I really resent that. It is crucial I establish this.

“We are carrying out what the government said we should do to the T.”

He added: “What I’m trying to establish is that as part of that settlement in 2015 with the chancellor of the exchequer, it was clear reform of the over-75s – provided we could go through the proper consultation and the consultation backed us up – was on the table and everybody knew reform was likely. Not inevitable, but likely.”

Dame Helen Mirren joined the fight on Wednesday to save free TV licences for all over-75s – describing the decision to axe the entitlement as “heartbreaking”.

The actress, 73, is one of 20 celebrities – including Sir Lenny Henry, Lionel Blair, Christopher Biggins, Len Goodman and Angela Rippon – who have signed an open letter calling on the government to ensure the funding continues.

2019-07-18T04:35:15+01:00By |

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