Motions 70 and 71
Congress notes the BBC’s plans to make most over-75s pay the TV licence fee from June 2020, only offering free licences to pensioners who provide evidence that they claim the means-tested pension credit. Congress recognises the vital role that free TV licences play in the lives of many over-75s and that this is a welfare benefit that should be funded by government, not the BBC.
According to research from the House of Commons Library, around three million households will lose their free TV licence as a result. Up to 1.3 million families entitled to pension credits do not claim the benefit, heightening concerns that the change will increase hardship amongst pensioners already living in poverty.
Congress believes that the issues around free TV licences highlight wider concerns about the long-term role and government support for public service broadcasting.
Congress recognises the important role that public service broadcasting and
the BBC play at the heart of UK culture and creative industries. The BBC plays an integral role in developing and nurturing talent, technical, craft and creatives’ skills across the UK. Congress agrees that the BBC (and other broadcasters) should and can do more to promote diversity and equality in the industry, both behind and in front of the camera, and supports the Federation of Entertainment Unions’ campaign to achieve this.
Congress notes that the BBC has also taken seriously the challenge to provide
employment outside of London, opening production centres in Media City in
Salford, other parts of the English regions and in Scotland and Wales.
Congress also notes that the BBC is rightly held to a high standard as a publicly funded, national broadcaster. Congress recognises whilst the BBC should be open to scrutiny it is also often subject to additional public criticism that is not always fair, in context or in comparison with other broadcasting organisations.
Congress condemns the decision of the government to transfer the cost and policy responsibilities to the BBC, which has forced the corporation into this decision or face having to close channels and axe programming. It believes our public service broadcaster should not be responsible for public policy decisions on a welfare benefit. It further believes that such a step will have grave implications for the relationship that the public has with the BBC, at a time when it is under increasing pressure.
Congress resolves to:
i. support calls for a reversal of this wrong-headed and unfair decision by the
government, and to campaign for government to fully fund free TV licences for over-75s
ii. campaign for the creation of a sustainable funding model for the BBC in future licence fee settlements adequate and long-term funding for the BBC
iii. re-affirm its commitment to public sector broadcasting free from political
interference and shielded from the whims of the government of the day.
Seconder: National Union of Journalists