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Petition Take back responsibility for funding free licences for over 75s from the BBC

The BBC has proved incapable of managing and funding the concessionary licence scheme for the over 75s. It axed the scheme, ignored mass protests and has no democratic accountability. Government should be politically accountable for benefits, not a media company. Take back control.

More details

This petition is supported by Silver Voices, which has been leading the protests against the scrapping of free TV licences for the over 75s. Over one million over 75s' households are either refusing, or are unable, to pay the £157-50 fee. Many will have to choose between heating, food and their constant companion the TV. Poverty and loneliness will increase among older people as a result of this cruel policy. Both the Government and the BBC have broken their pledges to keep this benefit.

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Government responded

This response was given on 16 March 2021

From June 2020, the BBC is responsible for setting out and paying for any concession providing free TV licences to those aged 75 and over. The BBC consulted widely on the future of the concession.

In the 2015 funding settlement, the government agreed with the BBC that responsibility for the concession will transfer to the BBC in June 2020. The government and the BBC agreed this is a fair deal for the BBC - in return we closed the iPlayer loophole, committed to increase the licence fee in line with inflation, and reduced a number of other spending commitments. At the time, the former Director General of the BBC Lord Hall said on the Today programme that the agreement was a ‘strong deal’ which provided the BBC with ‘financial stability’.

This reform was subject to public discussion and debated extensively during the passage of the Digital Economy Act 2017 through Parliament. This legislation therefore provides that the future of the concession is the responsibility of the BBC, not of the government, and we have no further plans to review this at this time.

From 20 November 2018 to 12 February 2019, the BBC held an open consultation on the over 75 licence fee concession and options for the future concession. The BBC consulted on three key options: maintaining the concession; restoring a universal licence fee; and reforming the concession of a discounted licence for older people by raising the age threshold or making eligibility based on means-testing. More than 190,000 people responded to the consultation, including 115 stakeholders such as 38 Degrees and Age UK.

Following the public consultation, the BBC Board decided that from June 2020, any household with someone aged over 75 who receives Pension Credit will be entitled to a free TV licence paid for by the BBC. However, recognising the circumstances posed by the national Coronavirus situation, the BBC Board decided to change the start date of the new policy, which came into effect on 1 August 2020.

The Government is deeply disappointed with the BBC's decision to restrict the over 75 licence fee concession to only those in receipt of pension credit. We recognise the value of free TV licences for over-75s and believe they should be funded by the BBC. The BBC must look further at how it uses its substantial licence fee income to support older people.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/562729)

At 100,000 signatures...

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

Other parliamentary business

Petitions Committee schedule e-petition session on TV licensing for 1 March 2021

On Monday 1 March the Petitions Committee will hold a virtual e-petition session to discuss the TV licensing. MPs will discuss the issue in light of a petition calling for the Government to Revoke the TV licence using legislation: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/300118

Watch live from 4.30pm on Monday 1 March:
https://youtu.be/_bRiLl7OA4A

Petitions sessions and debates are an opportunity for MPs to discuss the important issues raised by petitions, however they cannot directly change the law or result in a vote to implement the request of the petition.

The petition calling for the Government to revoke the TV licence using legislation is being considered in an e-petition session because sittings in Westminster Hall (where e-petitions are normally debated) have been suspended as part of Parliament’s arrangements for adapting to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Original Government response

From June 2020, the BBC is responsible for setting out and paying for any concession providing free TV licences to those aged 75 and over. The BBC consulted widely on the future of the concession.

In the 2015 funding settlement, the government agreed with the BBC that responsibility for the concession will transfer to the BBC in June 2020. The government and the BBC agreed this is a fair deal for the BBC - in return we closed the iPlayer loophole, committed to increase the licence fee in line with inflation, and reduced a number of other spending commitments. At the time, the former Director General of the BBC Lord Hall said on the Today programme that the agreement was a ‘strong deal’ which provided the BBC with ‘financial stability’.

This reform was subject to public discussion and debated extensively during the passage of the Digital Economy Act 2017 through Parliament. This legislation therefore provides that the future of the concession is the responsibility of the BBC, not of the government.

From 20 November 2018 to 12 February 2019, the BBC held an open consultation on the over 75 licence fee concession and options for the future concession. The BBC consulted on three key options: maintaining the concession; restoring a universal licence fee; and reforming the concession of a discounted licence for older people by raising the age threshold or making eligibility based on means-testing. More than 190,000 people responded to the consultation, including 115 stakeholders such as 38 Degrees and Age UK.

Following the public consultation, the BBC Board decided that from June 2020, any household with someone aged over 75 who receives Pension Credit will be entitled to a free TV licence paid for by the BBC. However, recognising the circumstances posed by the national Coronavirus situation, the BBC Board decided to change the start date of the new policy, which came into effect on 1 August 2020.

The Government is deeply disappointed with the BBC's decision to restrict the over 75 licence fee concession to only those in receipt of pension credit. We recognise the value of free TV licences for over-75s and believe they should be funded by the BBC. The BBC must look further at how it uses its substantial licence fee income to support older people.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

This response was given on 16 February 2021. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

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