In December 2016, the Government and the BBC agreed the new charter in which, from 2020 onwards, the BBC would take responsibility for the funding of the free TV licence for over-75s, and decide the basis on which such concessions would continue.
The BBC understood the level of commitment required when it agreed to the funding settlement, not least because in 2015, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) published its estimated costs for continuing free TV licences (e.g. £200 million in 2018/19 to £745 million in 2020/21). The BBC also commissioned Frontier Economics to explore the long-term options for funding the over-75s concession.
At the time, the BBC described the settlement reached as a good deal, that provided financial stability through inflation-linked increases in the licence fee, and the closure of loopholes in relation to iPlayer. I am therefore very disappointed that the BBC has chosen to stop funding free TV licences for all over-75s, and that it has announced only the most narrow option for reform of the over-75s concession.
Under the BBCs present plans, the poorest pensioners will continue to be helped (as defined by those eligible for Pension Credit). I do not believe this is good enough, however, and that the BBC could do more to assist older people.
The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has met, and continues to engage with, the BBC to press them to provide further help. I trust that the BBC will reconsider its proposals should it wish to continue to enjoy the support of the British public.