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BBC defends over-75s licence fee plans following damning DCMS committee report

The BBC has responded to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee report into the PSB’s decision to cut free TV licences for over-75s, backing its new ruling. 

The report said that the body was “disappointed with the BBC’s decision not to continue free licences for the over-75s.”

As quoted by a BBC report, a government spokesperson said: “We’ve been clear that we want and expect it to continue this concession. Taxpayers want to see the BBC using its substantial licence fee income in an appropriate way to ensure it delivers for UK audiences. We will respond to the select committee report in due course.”

The licence fee in the UK currently runs at £154.50 per household, and the new rules announced in June mean that only low-income households where one person receives the pension credit benefit will be eligible for the free licence. In total, 3.7 million people are set to lose out on their licence fees.

In response to the damning DCMS report, the BBC said that it was pleased that there is “clear recognition from the committee that it would be unsustainable for the BBC to take on the full cost of all these free licences alone”.

The PSB’s statement goes on to point out that “the value of the licence fee will continue to be under pressure from inflation in the TV sector” and that “there must be a different way of doing things in the future,” in light of the behind closed doors negotiations on the licence fee in 2015. 

The committee criticised BBC director general Tony Hall for how he handled the negotiations, saying that he failed to seek the formal agreement of the BBC executive board before recommending to the BBC Trust the deal struck with the government.

In spite of this, the BBC said that it is “satisfied that it was properly discussed within the BBC and properly authorised,” and that it will “continue to implement the decision [it has] taken – after extensive consultation – on over 75s licence fees with great care and responsibility.”

Tags: BBC, DCMS, licence fee