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BECTU urges caution on BBC funding debate

17 December 2018

Media and entertainment union BECTU has warned against pitting concerns about BBC salaries against the current consultation on the future of over-75s licence fees.

Recent media coverage has drawn erroneous links between senior pay at the BBC and the corporation’s ongoing consultation on the future of the free licence fee for over-75s, after the government declared it was no longer willing to meet the cost of the benefit.

While recognising that salaries are an important issue for BBC staff, BECTU – the largest union at the BBC – is calling on the government to stop shirking its responsibility for the over-75s free licence fee and urging people to keep the issues separate.

BECTU National Secretary Sarah Ward said: “The BBC is always subject to scrutiny, especially in relation to anything financial, and rightly so. It’s worth remembering that not all commentators offer their thoughts from a place of support for the BBC and the importance of its continued public funding, but we certainly do.

"The quality of the BBC’s public service is treasured at home and envied across the world and it should be protected. However, while we are campaigning to ensure the BBC values and protects core craft skills in broadcasting in the face of unprecedented budget cuts, our members are unlikely to accept that significant senior level pay increases are justified or necessary at this moment in time.

“However, we would urge caution against those seeking to link the issue of salaries with the consultation on the over-75s licence fee. There is no doubt that there are huge financial constraints facing the BBC, and we are clear that this a challenge of the government’s making. Transferring the cost and responsibility of a welfare benefit to the BBC itself is wrong, and a is a blatant derogation of responsibility by the government. That’s why we have repeatedly called on the government to review that decision, and why we will continue to do so.”

BECTU’s initial response to the over-75s licence fee consultation can be seen here and the union will publish its full consultation in due course.