Author Topic: Careful, BBC, don’t take on the oldies  (Read 371 times)

Offline Sao Paulo

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Careful, BBC, don’t take on the oldies
« on: February 17, 2019, 12:51:10 PM »
Quote from: dominic lawson
Ending 'free' BBC TV licences for the over-75s will not be Auntie’s finest hour


Sometimes even the most loved institutions  :unsure: :chinscratch: can burn up accumulated decades of goodwill in a matter of months. It’s a thought that should now be troubling the BBC, affectionately known as Auntie. The national broadcaster is lobbying MPs to support a plan to abolish or means-test the concession of a free TV licence for the homes of those aged 75 and over. Last week the prime minister got involved, telling parliament that for many elderly people the BBC brought their “connection . . . with the world. That is why the free licences for the over-75s are so important . . . we want and expect the BBC to continue free licences when they take over responsibility for the concession in 2020.”

The last bit needs explaining. The concession was invented by the then chancellor, Gordon Brown (An election bribe), in 1999. But in 2015 his successor, George Osborne, somehow got the BBC to agree to take full responsibility for funding the concession from 2020.

In return the corporation got stuff it wanted: the licence fee to be adjusted in line with inflation for five years; the ability to charge the full licence fee to those who watched BBC programmes on devices other than a TV set; and a reduction in the BBC’s obligation to fund rural broadband. All this, and more, was set out in a letter of agreement from Osborne to the BBC’s director-general, Lord Hall: it said that the Department for Work and Pensions would contribute hundreds of millions to the concession until 2020-21, at which point the BBC “will take on the full cost”.

So, having pocketed the negotiating gains in the 2015 deal, the BBC is now proposing to welch on the big cost — just as it is about to fall due. And under the same director-general: the Lord Hall who in 2015 said the deal with the Treasury “gives us financial stability and the ability to plan for the future” now protests that the “current concession . . . would cost £745m a year . . . equivalent to around a fifth of our current spending on services and programmes. It’s about the same amount we spend today on all of BBC2, BBC3, BBC4, the BBC News Channel, CBBC and CBeebies.”

To which this licence-fee-payer says: thank you for describing your empire-building and explaining why it costs so much. But it’s not an argument that will weigh with the over-75s, whose tastes generally don’t extend to CBBC and CBeebies (though, come to think of it, the novelist Iris Murdoch in the final stages of Alzheimer’s was devoted to Teletubbies).

The corporation’s plans naturally encountered immediate protest from Age UK, which declared that the removal of the concession would mean that “millions could soon be faced with choosing between cutting down on food and heating or paying to continue to enjoy” television. If they were that desperate, they might consider not paying the £150 for their TV licence, but then they would face criminal prosecution. The sight of penurious old grannies being taken to court by TV Licensing would not be an ideal item for the BBC’s News at Ten.

This thought had occurred to Osborne. I’m told that after the negotiations over the licence fee had been concluded in 2015, he observed to Hall that the BBC was always leading its news bulletins with items about the cruelty of Conservative spending cuts, and he wondered how the BBC would one day report on its own decision to cut a benefit dear to some of the poorest in the country.

In other words, Osborne foresaw that the BBC would find a way to wriggle out of this commitment as soon as it became truly onerous. And indeed the leading article in Wednesday’s edition of the London Evening Standard (editor: G Osborne) argued that “a new mistake would be giving in to the predictable short-term pressure to exempt over-75s from the licence fee in future . . . . [T]he BBC . . . would be mad to reduce voluntarily its potential number of paying subscribers, especially as older viewers make up a bigger and bigger audience share.”

That is also the argument put in a consultation paper funded by the BBC. This document, drawn up by a consultancy called Frontier Economics, asserts: “In 2000, the government decided to fund free television licences for the over-75s . . . Much has changed since.” In those “changes” it highlights the marked improvement in the income of pensioners relative to the rest of the population and the issue of “intergenerational fairness” — with reference to the difficulty for younger people to afford their own home.

All true. But the BBC struck its deal with the government not in 2000 but 2015 — when these “changes” had already occurred. Nor could anyone have been unaware that the proportion of the population aged 75 and over was bound to increase — the consequence of improved longevity and the postwar baby-boomers moving into the pensionable age bracket. Nor is it obvious how the BBC abandoning free TV licences for the over-75s would make it easier for their children or grandchildren to buy their own homes — unless the BBC is seriously proposing to replace discounts for the elderly with concessions for those below, say, 30.

Actually, you can see why it might want to do that. Younger people are moving away from the BBC and towards alternative subscription-based broadcasters such as Amazon and Netflix. The latter’s annual fee, which starts at £72, is less than half the BBC’s, even though the American streaming colossus spends three times what the BBC does on programming.

In that context, it’s not surprising that more than 860,000 people cancelled their TV licence last year. And the BBC’s unsentimental former director of programmes Sir David Attenborough won’t help matters by deciding — to quote his furious colleague John Simpson, in the New Statesman — “to leave the BBC and take the Netflix shilling for his next series . . . Netflix will be siphoning off a sizeable proportion of the BBC’s reputation.”

Simpson concluded, bleakly: “I was taken to task some years ago for forecasting the death of the BBC as the world’s leading public service broadcaster, but I realise now that it won’t happen as a result of government meddling, as I assumed: it’ll come because far richer outfits will dangle very large wads of money in front of its stars, and strip it of its finest assets.”

Here’s some uninvited advice for the BBC. If you want to charge the over-75s for their TV licence, you’ll need to give them more of what they want to watch: lots of repeats of Dad’s Army and It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum. Oh, and don’t forget Steptoe and Son, or ’Allo ’Allo!. That’ll hardly cost anything: perhaps it could be on a new channel called BBC Oldies.

That would be as welcome as a cup of cold sick to those youth-fixated denizens of New Broadcasting House who blame the oldsters for the Brexit vote. Perhaps the end of the over-75s concession is a form of collective punishment.
Appreciate the help and help information found here.  Why not tell your friends and family so they know their rights when it comes to BBC TV Licensing……………….you know it makes sense

Online Roy Stirred-Oyster

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Re: Careful, BBC, don’t take on the oldies
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2019, 03:48:49 PM »
I've saved this article for future reference.  The comments by John Simpson about "taking the Netflix shilling" say everything about the BBC's arrogance and sense of entitlement.
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