Speaking in the Brexit heartland of Sunderland this afternoon, the Prime Minister was asked about TV licence reform. While not making any explicit commitment, his answer pricked Guido’s ears – claiming he is “certainly looking at it”, and going on to say “you have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach to funding a media organisation still makes sense in the long term, giving the way other organisations manage to fund themselves.” Music to libertarian ears…
Scottish Labour MP Hugh Gaffney went on a rant at PMQs over the Government not doing enough for free BBC TV licences. As May pointed out, it’s for the BBC to answer why they can afford to increase their “talent bill” yet again while taking away pensioners’ free licences…
Not that Gaffney needs to be too worried himself, it turns out he’s quite happy for other people to pay for his own TV licence – despite his MP’s salary of £79,468 a year, he’s claimed his £150.50 TV licence off the hardworking taxpayer instead. Classic!
The annual television licence fee will increase to £147 from £145.50 on April 1 this year, the first increase since 2010. Bad week for the news to come out following revelations of bullying and heavy-handed enforcement practices and news that thousands of licence fee hearings are held in secret without legal representation. Meanwhile, ITV today announced a profit fall and advertising shortfall. Auntie taken care of for another year…
UPDATE: The Freedom Association’s Axe the TV Tax campaign say:
“It’s hardly a shock that the Beeb took the first opportunity it could to raise the licence fee. It will say that it’s still wonderful value – not that anything taken from you under the threat of a prison sentence can be described as value for money. It’s time this telly tax was abolished. We should have a choice whether or not we want to fund Auntie.”
Whitto has confirmed the news in the Sunday papers that the BBC will have to stump up the cost of free TV licences for over-75s.
The Beeb’s Europe correspondent is not taking it so well:
— Chris Morris (@BBCChrisMorris) July 6, 2015
U ok hon?
Nor is their political editor:
PM urged to scrap free TV licence for elderly by civil service & Lib Dems in Coalition but didn't dare. So BBC given £1/2 billion problem
— Nick Robinson (@bbcnickrobinson) July 6, 2015
The chair of the BBC Trust complains:
BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead: 'Cannot endorse process .. disappointed [trust] not given any say .. will impact on BBC services'
— John Plunkett (@johnplunkett149) July 6, 2015
Though DG Tony Hall insists:
“We have secured the right deal for the BBC in difficult economic circumstances for the country… In the circumstances, the BBC has agreed to take on the costs of free licences for over-75s, and after the next parliament, will take on the policy.”
Of course the people actually “taking on the cost” is the licence fee payer…