BBC spends £290million on its online and red button services

BBC spends £290million on its online and red button services – enough to pay for 1.9m licence fees for over-75s

  • Angry pensioners have slammed the BBC’s decision to scrap free TV licences
  • Critics have been attacking move on social media, with hashtags like #axethetax
  • A petition launched by Age UK has attracted many thousands of signatures

The BBC spends more than £290 million on its online and red button services – enough to pay for £1.9 million licence fees for the over-75s.

More than 150,000 people have signed a petition opposing the BBC’s decision to scrap free TV licences for 3.7million over-75s, and hashtags like ‘#axethetax’ have spread on Twitter as calls grow for the corporation to reverse the decision.

The move will save the BBC £495m from 2021, but leave 3.7m pensioners without free television.

In contrast, the £290 million bill for the BBC website and red button service in 2017/18 could fund more than 1.9 million free licences.

The BBC has scrapped blanket free TV licences for the over-75s, bosses have announced today. File image 

As hashtags like ‘#axethetax’ spread on Twitter, Age UK petition ‘save free TV for older people’ racked up more than 150,000 signatures this afternoon

The BBC tweeted to explain the changes and what they mean for the over 75s

BBC Director-General Tony Hall said of the changes: ‘This has not been an easy decision’

If that was combined with the £268.3 million spent on the BBC World Service Operating licence, the BBC could continue to offer the free service for pensioners.

The corporation could alternatively look at cutting back the £655.6 million spend on its numerous radio channels.  

Tory MP Philip Davies said the licence fee should be abolished and offered to go through the corporation’s books to find other savings.

He said: ‘The decision by the BBC is outrageous and shows the contempt the BBC hold for their viewers.

What does the BBC spend its money on?

The BBC Annual Report and Accounts for 2017/18 shows what the corporation spends its money on. The following is spent on TV:

BBC One- £1,275.6 million

BBC Two- £481.2 million

BBC Four- £52.3 million

CBBC- £96.1 million

CBeebies – £43.4 million

BBC ALBA- £10.7 million

BBC News Channel – £68.2 million

BBC Parliament – £10.1 million 

The BBC pays a combined £655.6 million for radio, that includes Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4 and services in Scotland and Wales.

The cost for the BBC Online website and the red button service is £290.3 million.

Some of the other services the BBC spends money on are as follows:

Orchestras and performing groups – £32.2 million

Development Spend – £57.3 million

BBC World Service Grant – £70.5 million

BBC World Service Operating Licence – £268.3 million 

‘It is about time the licence fee was abolished for everyone and the BBC had to start living in the real world rather than sucking on the teat of licence fee players.’

He added: ‘They should certainly start by cutting Gary Lineker’s obscene salary and I will happily volunteer to go through their books to look at what could be cut before simply wanting their huge salaries to be propped up by pensioners.’

Meanwhile fellow MP Andrew Bridgen said the decision could force many pensioners into poverty

He said: ‘The BBC accepted the terms of the licence renewal and then have reneged on that promise.

‘All the BBC is doing is forcing the over 75s to buy a TV licence, it’s a poll tax, the most regressive tax in the country. According to Age Concern this could force 50,000 peope into poverty. It’s a tax grab against the over 75s, pure and simple.

When asked about the BBC making possibly cuts in other areas, including the website, before targeting pensioners, Mr Bridgen said: ‘I think the word austerity is not something they are familiar with.’

Director-General Tony Hall announced the proposal yesterday, calling it a ‘difficult’ decision but one that was ‘fairest to the poorest’ as those receiving Pension Credit would still be eligible for a free licence. 

Attendees at the National Pensioners’ Convention in Blackpool protested the BBC’s decision today by holding up a banner reading ‘save our free TV licence’.

John O’Connell Chief Executive of the Taxpayers Alliance backed calls for the BBC to curb spending on salaries and self-promotion.

He said: ‘The poorest pensioners who can’t afford to pay the TV tax won’t be affected by this change, and means testing will mean that those wealthy enough to cover the costs themselves can now do so.

‘As technology moves forward and people are switching to services such as Netflix and Amazon, many Brits are wondering why anyone should have to pay a TV tax at all.

‘The BBC should be moving towards a funding model where subscription fees replace part or all of the license fee, so that only those who actually use the service pay for it. In the meantime, vast spending on senior salaries and self-promotion must be stamped out.’ 

More than 140,000 sign Age UK petition against move – while thousands demand TV licences be scrapped altogether 

Age UK – 

An Age UK petition calls on the BBC to reinstate free licenses for over-65s, because they say the plans would harm millions of older people who rely on their TV.  

‘Together, we must demand the Government takes back responsibility for funding free TV licences,’ it said. 

Current signatories – More than 150,000 

Parliamentary petition – 

Another petition, by Jane Mackinnon, calls on the TV licence to be abolished altogether. 

The petition already has more than 48,000 signatures, but needs to get to 100,000 for the issue to be considered for a debate in Parliament. 

The petition states: ‘The quality of BBC programmes do not reflect the price of the TV license. It is far too expensive for the majority of people and should be abolished.’

Earlier today, Piers Morgan weighed into the debate, branding it ‘an utter disgrace’ that D-Day veterans face a charge. 

Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood predicting that one million veterans would be affected by the cut, which Tory leadership contenders Esther McVey, Matt Hancock and Andrea Leadsom also condemned. 

Others pointed out the BBC’s whopping outlay on salaries, which last year was £148million for presenters alone, with Match of the Day host Gary Lineker topping the bill with a pay packet of £1.8m. 

Director-General Tony Hall announced the move yesterday, calling it a ‘difficult’ decision but one that was ‘fairest to the poorest’ as those receiving Pension Credit would still be eligible for a free licence. 

The move will save the BBC £495m from 2021, but leave 3.7m pensioners without free television.    

Twitter users called for a boycott of the BBC until the decision is reversed, while angry pensioners said they would be left unable to pay.

‘Susan’ tweeted: ‘Boycott the BBC, they are a disgrace… all 75 year olds should be exempt from paying the licence fee.’

Andy Barton said: ‘Imagine making over 75s, (most of whom are living on an embarrassingly low pension) pay for their TV licence fee.

‘The one thing that connects them to the world when they can’t get out and about as they once used to is television. It’s an absolute disgrace. #tvlicense #bbc.’

Kev Simmons added: ‘Yep, cos it’s fair my mum on her state pension, who hasn’t got the tech knowledge to just use Netflix, and has watched Corrie etc for years, pays not only for these people but also so the BBC can broadcast free around the world…#axethetax.’ 

‘Can the BBC justify taking an elderly, vulnerable pensioner to court if they don’t pay up?’ How politicians and charities reacted to the move

 Politicians and charities rounded on the BBC today for its decision to strip millions of over-75s of their free TV licences.

An estimated 4.6million households currently escape the £154.50 annual charge.

But from next June the exemption will be available only to those on pension credit, a benefit claimed by 900,000 low-income households. 

MPs said the most vulnerable now faced being dragged to court if they did not realise they had to buy a licence – or could not afford one.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown said: ‘We have to ask whether the BBC can justify taking a frail, housebound, elderly pensioner to court for not possessing a TV licence that for years she has had for free?

‘And then not only having the power to ask for a fine of £1,000 with legal costs on top, but also to have the power if she doesn’t pay or can’t pay, to ask the courts to send her to prison?’

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown (pictured) warned that the changes could push pensioners into criminality and be a ‘taxation without representation’

Labour MP Kate Hoey claimed the change would fuel calls for the licence fee to be abolished altogether  

 The Department for Work and Pensions used to shoulder the bill for free TV licences, but the responsibility was handed to the BBC in 2015.

This had saddled the broadcaster with a bill of at least £745million from 2021, rising to more than £1billion by 2029. In return, the Government gave the BBC permission to either limit or remove the entitlement.

Who used to cover the cost of free TV licences and when did politicians pass the cost onto the BBC? 

The Department for Work and Pensions used to shoulder the bill for free TV licences, but the responsibility was handed to the BBC in 2015.

This had saddled the broadcaster with a bill of at least £745million from 2021, rising to more than £1billion by 2029. In return, the Government gave the BBC permission to either limit or remove the entitlement.

The BBC announced yesterday that it had decided to restrict free TV licences to poorer pensioners – a move that will still cost it £250million a year. The corporation said the change was needed to avoid ‘profoundly damaging closures’ to services and channels.

Although 900,000 households are on pension credit another 600,000 do not take advantage of the benefit – either through stigma or fear of excessive paperwork. Were they to start claiming – allowing them a free licence – the Treasury’s £5.4billion bill for pension credit could soar.

Under the new rules elderly women will be particularly at risk of being dragged through the courts – and potentially to jail – because they are convicted of licence fee evasion more frequently than men.

According to the most recent data, 184,595 Britons were charged with non-payment of the TV licence in 2016. Around 140,000 were taken to court, 21,300 of which were found not guilty and 90 people were jailed for failing to pay court-issued fines. 

The BBC announced yesterday that it had decided to restrict free TV licences to poorer pensioners – a move that will still cost it £250million a year. The corporation said the change was needed to avoid ‘profoundly damaging closures’ to services and channels.

Tory leadership hopeful Esther McVey urged the BBC to reverse its decision. 

She tweeted: ‘The BBC was told that it could increase the licence fee if it covered free TV licences for over 75s. 

‘It now seems to have broken that deal The BBC shouldn’t benefit financially from breaking that promise. I would ensure that all over 75s get the free TV licences they deserve.’

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky: ‘I think this decision by the BBC was a mistake because I don’t think we should be putting extra burdens on pensioners.

‘Ultimately over the next few years the distinction between what is a TV and what is a computer is collapsing, in the future there won’t be a distinction.

‘This is all a short-term debate, the big debate is how do you have a national broadcaster in the era of the internet?’ 

They joined Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who told the Good Morning Britian: ‘If GMB are going to mount a campaign on this, then sign me up as the first person to back it because television is the window to the world for people that can’t go there themselves, including people who are elderly.

‘It’s not just a friend when you’re lonely, it’s not just intellectual stimulation, it’s also a way to reach out and see things and, like Susanna (Reid), if I was asked to pay a few pounds more to help make sure that free TV licences are maintained for people over the age of 75, I would willingly pay it.’ 

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson branded the burden placed on pensioners an ‘outrage’ and activists for the elderly warned that the move will directly affect the ‘sick and disabled’. 

Meanwhile, Tobias Ellwood retweeted a post by Piers Morgan about D-Day veterans now being saddled with paying the fee, with the Defence Minister claiming around a million former soldiers are over the age of 75.  

Scottish National Party MP Hannah Bardell said: ‘It’s a shocking fact that dozens of people, many of whom are women, are sent to prison every year for non-payment of their licence.

‘As if this is not bad enough, to potentially prosecute people in their 80s and 90s and send them to prison for not being able to afford a TV licence is absolutely unacceptable.’

Labour’s Kate Hoey tweeted: ‘All this will do is make the campaign to abolish the licence fee even stronger.’ 

 Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK, said the thought of jail was ‘amazingly scary’ for the elderly.

She added: ‘We’re talking about some of the most vulnerable people in our society who are facing all kinds of challenges – intellectual impairments, serious illness, terminal illness, bereavement – all kinds of things happen to you when you get to this age.

‘The last thing people want to be worrying about is the possibility that they might be taken before the courts for doing the wrong thing – and yet it’s hard to see how that won’t happen to some people.’

Paul Edwards, director of clinical services at Dementia UK, said the removal of free TV licences would add another layer of bureaucracy for dementia sufferers who already ‘find it difficult to keep on top of bill payments’.

BBC boss Lord Tony Hall insisted yesterday that the broadcaster would be sensitive to the plight of vulnerable pensioners. But he said the corporation did not have the power to decriminalise the licence fee.

‘It is up to the courts, but it’s also our interpretation of people’s state – already, on the licence fee we can make judgements about that,’ he added.

BBC bosses said keeping free licences would have forced them to cut their total budget by a fifth, sacrificing vast swathes of services.

A spokesman said: ‘This is the fairest option to help the poorest pensioners. It is the fairest option for all licence fee payers, as this means everyone will continue to receive the best programmes and services that the BBC can provide.

‘The BBC will not be making judgements about poverty as that measure is set and controlled by Government.’ BBC chairman Sir David Clementi yesterday took a swipe at the Government, saying it could ‘of course choose to step in and close the gap from their own resources’.

Insiders suggested that the corporation had rushed its announcement through in order to take advantage of the Tory leadership election and ‘bounce’ candidates into making promises to take on the extra cost.

But the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘We are very disappointed with this decision. We have been clear that we expected the BBC to continue this concession.

‘People across the country value television as a way to stay connected and we want the BBC to talk again at ways to support older people.

‘Taxpayers want to see the BBC use its substantial licence fee income in an appropriate way to ensure it delivers for UK audiences.’

Q&A: When will the new charge be introduced and will I be affected? 

When will the licence fee change come in?

June 1, 2020

Who will be affected?

Anyone over the age of 75 will lose their exemption – except those on pension credit.

How many households could be exempt?

Around 3million UK households are eligible for a pension credit – which tops up weekly income to £167.25 for a single person or £255.25 for a couple. People who reached state pension age before April 2016 can also apply for up to £15.35 per couple per week if they have savings. 

Half of those households – 1.5million – have residents over the age of 75, so would be eligible for a free TV licence. However, only around 900,000 actually claim the benefit.

How do I obtain pension credit?

Aimed at retired people on low incomes, both single people and couples, it is means tested but can be worth thousands of pounds a year. Call the pension credit claim line on 0800 99 1234. They will fill in the application for you over the phone. 

You need your national insurance number and bank details along with information about your finances including savings, mortgages, investments and any other assets.

How do you claim a free TV licence?

You will have to show TV Licensing – the arm of the BBC in charge of collecting the charge – proof that you receive pension credit. This could be a copy of the letter you received from the Department for Work and Pensions.

How will it be policed?

TV Licensing will develop and operate an ‘independent self-verification system’ online. It will also provide pensioners who think they are entitled to the pension credit, but do not claim it, details of how to do this.

How much will the new scheme cost?

The continued exemptions will cost the BBC £250million a year, including the bill for hiring extra staff to talk to elderly pensioners about the changes face to face. 

That is the equivalent to the budget for Radio 4, Radio 2, the BBC News Channel and some local radio stations.

Where will the BBC get this money from?

£100million from recent savings efforts that was supposed to go into programming and the £150million a year previously committed to the national roll-out of rural broadband. 

The broadcaster was freed from that obligation as part of its 2015 deal with government.

Why not tap the high-paid stars?

Bosses rejected cutting tlaent pay because capping salaries at £150,000 would save only around £20million a year.

Could I go to jail if I don’t pay?

Non-payment of the TV licence is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine of up to £1,000, plus court costs. Disobeying the court and not paying that fine can land you in jail. 

Susanna Reid fights back the tears speaking to elderly victim of BBC’s decision to stop free TV licences as Piers Morgan offers to pay for veteran 

Susanna Reid broke down this morning as an elderly woman begged her to stop the BBC snatching away her main source of entertainment as Piers Morgan pledged to pay for a veteran’s TV licence.  

The Good Morning Britain presenter and co-host Piers used today’s show to demand the broadcaster reverse its decision to scrap free TV licences for the over-75s, branding it an ‘outrage’.

It came as Piers called on politicians to join their campaign against the decision, saying: ‘Shame on the BBC for doing this, they should be forced to do a U-turn and cave on this.’

He raged at the decision as he pointed out that veterans who have just been honoured for their bravery on D-Day would be among those hit.

‘So we’re going to make D-Day veterans pay £154 for their TV licences?’ he tweeted. ‘What an absolute disgrace. Shame on you, BBC.’ 

The presenters encouraged people to call in and share their disgust as they called on the corporation to rethink the move.  

Pensioner Josephine urged the broadcaster to ‘get in the real word’ during a phone-in as she told the presenter it will hit her husband particularly hard and accused the corporation of targeting elderly people.  

When asked if she had a message for Tony Hall, Josephine branded the director-general ‘old fashioned’ and slammed him for ‘penalising the elderly’.

As Susanna called the move an ‘outrage’, she told the caller: ‘My heart breaks for you.’

Piers Morgan branded the scrapping of the licence fee ‘terrible’ as Susanna Reid said it was an ‘outrage’ while Josephine cried to them on the phone 

While she fought back tears, Piers called on the 10 contenders for the Conservative Party leadership to make clear what they would do as Prime Minister.  

Josephine left fans of the show in tears as they took to Twitter to express sympathy for her and others.

One wrote: ‘Well Josephine on Good Morning Britian #GMB has made me cry. That’s a reality.’

Another tweeted: ‘Listening to pensioners on @GMB reduced to tears because the @BBC are taking away their lifeline is utterly heartbreaking.’  

Susanna Reid broke down on Good Morning Britain today as Josephine described the impact scrapping the licence would have on her husband 

Other viewers raged against the decision and the impact it will have on military veterans as Piers Morgan pledged to pay the TV licence fee for a D-Day veteran who flirted with Melania Trump during the US President’s state visit. 

Thomas Cuthbert, a guest on yesterday’s show, is among those who face losing out. The 93-year-old joked with Donald Trump ‘if I was 20 years younger’ when he met the president and First Lady. 

After his remarks hit headlines, the veteran told the show’s presenters that he had no idea what came over him. 

Pictured: Thomas Cuthbert meets President Trump and First Lady Melania. He hit headlines during the state visit for saying ‘if I was 20 years younger’

Carole Monk (far-left), daughter of Thomas Cuthbert (pictured on yesterday’s Good Morning Britain) told today’s show that he faces difficult decisions before Piers pledged to pay his licence for him

His daughter told the show today: ‘He’s going to be pretty angry – the veterans, all the elderly depend on the TV. It’s their lifeline. It makes you wonder what they are going to do next to them.’

As she feared that her father would have to make difficult decisions abotu hsi money despite the family helping out, Piers said: ‘I will pay his TV licence as long as he needs. 

‘Whatever happens – he moved us so much. Take it from me – I will pay for his licence.’   

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