The BBC is an important national institution which plays a central role in the lives of many people in the UK, particularly older people. In 2017/18, 92% of the adult UK population used BBC services at least once a week, and the BBC reached a weekly global audience of 376 million. The licence fee ensures that the BBC is properly funded and can continue to provide high-quality content.
In July 2015, as part of the BBC’s funding settlement, the Government agreed a funding deal with the BBC, which was also approved by Parliament. The key element of this deal was that from 2020 the BBC would take over funding free TV licences for the over 75s in return for certain concessions; such as the closing of the ‘iPlayer loophole’, which was the cause of a significant loss of income for the BBC. However, the BBC would now appear to have reneged on that agreement and has decided that once the free TV licence concession for the over 75s transfers to the BBC in 2020 it should be means-tested.
The BBC’s decision to stop funding for the over 75s concession is disappointing. It agreed in 2015 to continue funding the concession and it should keep to that agreement. If the BBC is concerned that it does not currently have sufficient capacity in its estimated £5.6 billion budget to fund the concession it would surely be better, rather than cutting the concession, to look at additional ways of generating revenue, such as a by making better use of the BBC’s vast catalogue of programmes, many of which are stored away and not making any money at all, or through a marginal increase in the licence fee for those under 75.