10 Minute Briefing – December 2018

These new, ten minute briefings from the NPC, aim to give you a quick analysis of the current debates surrounding older people in the UK.

BBC Consultation on Free TV Licence for 75+

We wanted to update you on the progress of our campaign on the above issue in order that you can participate.

The consultation document from the BBC is now live and will last for 12 weeks. However, the document does not include in its options for the current scheme to remain – it only gives a range of alternatives that mean pensioners will pay something towards their licence fee.

The NPC have joined together with Age UK and 9 other older people’s organisations in a campaign to restore the responsibility for the free TV licence back to the government. It should never have been given to the BBC in the first place.

The ways in which the campaign will take place:

Age UK has launched an online petition in the name of all 10 organisations signed up. Please sign and ensure that all your members who are online do so and share with everyone they know. The petition is at: www.ageuk.org.uk/tvpetition
There will be a model letter printed for individuals to add their name, address, why the TV licence is important to them, sign and send to the BBC. This will be a self-sealing document, freepost for those not online.
This same letter will be sent out on email for individuals to do the same. There will be a pre-determined email address that the letter should be sent to.
The NPC will be considering in the new year a lobby of either the DWP, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, or both in an effort to draw their attention to the biggest shift of welfare responsibility to an unelected corporation.

In the meantime, we have drafted a letter for forwarding to your MP. It is vital that all MPs understand the importance of free TV licences for over 75s and how it enables those who are lonely, isolated, or disabled to access information – a basic human right.

You can access the BBC consultation document at: https://bbcconsultation.traverse.org.uk/
Please go online and complete the consultation form questions in the following way:

1. The BBC should be copying the current concession – tick number 1
2. (a) Tick None of these
2. (b) Tick I’m not in favour of this reform
2. (c) Tick I’m not in favour of this reform
2. (d) Tick None of these
2. (e) Leave blank

3. other comments – include any or all of these points as you wish:

For many years the free TV licence has been part of the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) remit, and quite rightly has been seen as part of government’s wider welfare role in tackling social isolation among the older generation.
Successive governments have avoided improving the state pension, and instead have offered older people individual concessions, such as the free TV licence for the over 75s. According to the OECD, the UK state pension is the least adequate in the developed world. Removing this concession, without addressing the value of the state pension is therefore grossly unfair.
In any democracy, access to information is crucial to enable citizens the opportunity to be informed and make decisions.
Loneliness among older people is now regarded as a growing problem. 1 in 4 pensioners view the TV as their main form of companionship.
The provision of such a concession should therefore be seen as playing a vital role in tackling this problem. However, the BBC has no such obligation or responsibility to tackle such issues. This is the responsibility of government.
As such, the concession is clearly funded from general taxation by society as a whole. This correctly reflects the obligations that we all have – including tax paying pensioners – to make a contribution towards benefits and services which we deem to be worthy.
Around 6.5m older people have an income of less than £11,800 a year. The TV licence – as a proportion of income, therefore represents quite a considerable amount, and I have no doubt that if the concession were to be removed, many would simply be unable to pay.
Means-testing a benefit costs ten times as much as it being paid universally, and experience shows that those who need it most, tend to be the ones who don’t claim.
The BBC also needs to look at its other areas of expenditure, such as the salaries paid to some of its top employees and on screen talent, before it makes a decision to cut this concession.

We hope that you will encourage your members to participate – not only in the consultation, but by making sure everyone you know is informed of the risk the BBC options pose to vulnerable older people.

Yours sincerely

Jan Shortt
General Secretary