Concerns regarding changes to the TV License

UPDATE [21 July]: Sadly I could not get into the Chamber to speak in today's Urgent Question about these changes, but I will continue working with colleagues to push the issue.

I am very concerned that the BBC have decided to begin charging people over the age of 75 for their TV license.

The BBC’s decision to stop funding free TV licences for most over 75s is extremely disappointing. Those on Pension Credit benefit will continue to be exempt.

The national lockdown has exemplified the importance of television, especially for older people. Set apart from friends and family, the TV has been one of the only sources of news and entertainment for many. It helps us feel connected and even has a part to play in tackling loneliness. This is why I was disappointed that the BBC announced the most narrowly defined option for reform of the over 75s concession.

Parliament gave the BBC the full responsibility for the license fee from 2020. This was part of a deal the Government reached with the BBC over four years ago, which the BBC described as a good deal that provided financial stability to the organisation through inflation linked increases of the licence fee and the closure of the so-called iPlayer loophole. To go from that to making this decision is incredibly disappointing.

As I said above, even under the BBC’s 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 do not believe that this goes far enough, especially given that not everyone who is eligible for Pension Credit is claiming it, and so it will certainly not be the last of this conversation.

As a consequence of the BBC’s decision, today I wrote to the Director General of the BBC to urge that they reconsider their decision, something which I know many of my Conservative colleagues have also done.

Speaking frankly, I do not think it is right or necessary for pensioners to shoulder the cost when the BBC has an annual income and revenue of around £5 billion and could easily look elsewhere for cost saving measures if it wishes. I am pleased that the government has been robust in their views to the BBC as well.

I will continue working with colleagues to try and persuade the BBC to think again.

In the meantime, not everyone who is eligible for Pension Credit is claiming it, so I would urge you to check if you are eligible for Pension Credit by visiting www.gov.uk/pension-credit-calculator or calling 0800 99 1234. If you are eligible, you will continue to be exempt from having to pay the TV licence.

I will keep residents updated with my efforts, including writing to residents who may be affected by the changes, but please feel free to contact me with any concerns you may have about this, or any other issue.

Attachments

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Elliot Colburn MP letter to the DG of the BBC 17072020.pdf 503.51 KB