the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect
Government must meet BBC funding commitments

29 January 2019

The government must properly fund the BBC and stop passing the buck for its own welfare commitments.

That is the view of the UK’s entertainment union, BECTU, as it today (January 29) publishes its formal response to the BBC’s consultation on the future of free TV licences for the over-75s after the government pulled the plug on funding.

The BBC is seeking views on four broad options for free licences for over-75s – which will cost more than £745million per year by 2020 – from retaining the status quo, to reducing eligibility or scrapping the benefit entirely.

BECTU, which represents thousands of BBC staff, argues that none of the options are acceptable. Each would see the BBC suffer an unsustainable blow to already stretched budgets, while retaining free licences was a Conservative Party election promise that is the government’s responsibility to meet and pay for.

In a formal response to the BBC’s consultation, BECTU argues that:

  • As a welfare benefit, responsibility for funding free licence fees must return to the government
  • Forcing the BBC to foot the bill for the government’s own promises would cost more than its entire annual spend on radio services
  • Against a backdrop of unprecedented cuts that have seen savings of more than £1.5billion, covering the £745million cost of free licences risks irreversible damage to the BBC’s quality and output
  • The BBC’s contribution to public service and the UK’s creative industries must be fully recognised, with a wider debate on its future funding desperately needed  

BECTU National Secretary Sarah Ward said: “The BBC offers world-class programming and public service broadcasting that is rightly envied and respected around the world.

"The corporation has already had to deliver savings on an unprecedented scale and there is no room for further cuts without a devastating impact on quality and output, that will be felt by audiences and by our members.”

Head of BECTU, Philippa Childs, said: “The government made a manifesto promise to safeguard free TV licences for over-75s and now it is washing its hands of its own welfare responsibilities and expecting the BBC to pick up the tab. That is simply unacceptable.

“Not only are we clear that it is for the government to meet the cost of any concessionary licence scheme, we urgently want to see a wider discussion about funding arrangements for the BBC so that we can be confident that its future as a treasured and essential public service is safeguarded.”

The full BECTU response can be seen here: https://www.bectu.org.uk/advice-resources/library/2570

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