Free TV Licences for over 75’s: VLV Submission to DCMS Evidence Session

VLV has submitted evidence to the DCMS Committee for its session on changes proposed by the BBC to its TV licence fee for those over 75.

The one-off session oral evidence session was held on 17 July and is part of the Committee’s remit to examine the work of the BBC, with its findings included in the MPs’ annual examination of the BBC’s annual report and accounts.

The majority of our members is that the cost of free TV licences should be borne by Government and not by the BBC. We believe that it is wrong in principle for the BBC to be determining the policy, and bearing the cost, of what is essentially a welfare benefit. It is not the BBC to determine welfare benefits, nor to meet their cost. The energy companies do not determine the level of the winter fuel allowance, nor do they meet its cost. The BBC’s role in this potentially compromises its vital independence from Government and from Government policy-making.

We are concerned that, even without taking on board the cost of funding this benefit, the BBC was already facing a cut in its income in real terms, as a result of flat licence fee settlements and the top-slicing of its licence fee income, resulting from Governments diverting licence income towards largely unrelated initiatives. This is set out in more detail in our attached submission. The BBC estimates that across the last decade, its budget for services for UK licence payers has been cut by about 20 per cent.

We noted in our submission to the BBC that we have consistently pressed for a more open, inclusive and transparent process for determining BBC funding. Traditionally, these negotiations have been conducted in private, behind very closed doors, with all the scope for arm-twisting and horse-trading inherent in such a process. Not even Parliament is involved.

This is simply not acceptable in today’s world. We were pleased to see the Chairman of the BBC endorsing a more open and transparent process in his comments accompanying the BBC’s announcement on free TV licences for the over 75s.

We believe this is the single most important issue in respect to the future of the BBC and we hope the Committee will support this new approach.

You can read VLV’s submission to the committee here.