The DCMS Committee, which monitors the policy, administration and expenditure of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and its associated bodies, including the BBC, on behalf of the House of Commons and the electorate, has published responses to recommendations of its predecessor Committee’s report which focused on proposed changes to the TV licence fee.
In its response, the Government said it was “disappointed” with the BBC’s decision to restrict the over 75 licence fee concession to only those in receipt of pension credit. It recognised the value of free TV licences for over 75s and believed they should be funded by the BBC.
The DCMS Committee’s report, published in October 2019, had found the 2015 funding negotiations that led to the BBC restrictions on free TV licences a process that was ‘flawed’ on all sides and one that gave no opportunity for consultation with licence fee payers.
MPs concluded that the next round of negotiations between the Government and the BBC should agree a funding formula that maintained free over 75s TV licences, specifically recommending that the Government set out proposals for how it could support this measure in future, alongside the commitment that had been made by the BBC.
“It’s clear from the government’s response that there will be no bail-out for the BBC to maintain free TV licences for the over 75s,” commented Julian Knight MP, DCMS Committee Chair. “We note the government’s expression of mere disappointment at the BBC’s decision to restrict free licences. This approach struck the committee as little more than hand-wringing.”
“The BBC has told us about the number of hours those over 75 spend with the BBC and how they depend on it. It’s lamentable that it should be this group of people who will quite literally pay the penalty for a flawed charter renewal deal agreed in a rush behind closed doors.”