BBC rejects MPs’ pleas to reconsider TV licence fee for D-Day veterans

BEEB bosses have rejected MPs' pleas to reconsider axing the licence fee for over 75s – including for one 93-year-old D-Day veteran.

In a fractious appearance before Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee BBC chiefs were accused of raking in millions from the changes to the £154.50 a year fee.

2 The BBC have been come under fire for refusing to budge on axing TV licences for most over 75sCredit: PA:Press Association

MPs also accused the Beeb of “pocketing” £200 million a year from its decision to axe the free TV licence for the over-75s in fiery clashes with BBC bosses on Wednesday.

The BBC admitted it didn't even contact veterans charities when it was making the decision to axe the benefit.

However, BBC Director Lord Hall denied the BBC was selling the over-75s “down the river” with the decision.

From June next year only Brits who claim pension credit will be able to get the free benefit, and everyone else will have to pay.

Committee chairman Damian Collins MP suggested they were worth "about £700 million", adding "it seems you're net gainers from this process".

Providing the free TV licences would cost the Beeb £745million – but the new scheme will cost just £250million – saving them a huge chunk.

But Lord Hall stressed that it was ministers who were "withdrawing the concession" not the BBC.

"We are carrying out what the Government said we should do to the T."

It was "plain wrong" to say it was the BBC who u-turned on the issue, he said.

But he did agree to doing "everything we can" to make sure that Brits who are able to apply for pension credit can get it.

MP Ian Lucas begged Lord Hall to reconsider, referring to a 93-year-old Normandy veteran called Ted Edwards in his constituency who will have the benefit taken away.

But Lord Hall said: "I understand the position that Mr Edwards finds himself in, I respect completely what he's done with his life, he's been through things I hope I never have to go through, so I have the deepest respect for that, but the board have come to a decision, and myself, to balance two fairnesses."

Earlier today stars including Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Lenny Henry and Gogglebox celeb June Bernicoff signed an open letter hitting out at the decision to cut the licences.

Oscar-winner Dame Helen, 73, said: "It's absolutely heartbreaking that so many older people are going to lose their free licence, when television plays such an important role in their lives.

"I would urge all those involved, including the Government, to do the right thing and to carry on funding free licences for all over-75s – the cost of which is surely a small price to pay for keeping so many vulnerable older people connected."

The BBC admitted it didn't even contact veterans charities when it was making the decision to axe the benefit.

Miriam Margolyes, Kevin Whately, Nick Hewer, Matthew Wright, Levi Roots, Sylvia Syms, James Acaster and Ed Balls have also signed up.

Age UK says it has received around 36,000 letters, which will also be delivered to Conservative HQ, asking leadership hopefuls Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson to reconsider the Government's decision to hand responsibility for the funding to the BBC.

The free TV licence was introduced in 2000 but the BBC agreed to take on the cost for funding it as part of their settlement in 2015.

And earlier this year they revealed they wanted to save the cash by axing it for pensioners that won't be claiming pension credit.

BBC rejects MPs' pleas to reconsider TV licence fee for D-Day veterans2 Lord Hall said he had to look at whether the benefit was fairCredit: PA:Press Association

Ted Edwards is a @wrexham Normandy Veteran. Today I asked the BBC at @commonsCMS to reconsider taking away free TV licences from our Normandy Veterans. pic.twitter.com/cIK9Aj875F

— Ian Lucas MP (@IanCLucas) July 17, 2019

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Age UK's online petition has gathered more than 600,000 signatures.

A Government spokesman said: "We're very disappointed with this decision – we've been clear that we want and expect the BBC to continue this concession.

"People across the country value television as a way to stay connected, and we want the BBC to look at further ways to support older people.

"Taxpayers want to see the BBC using its substantial licence fee income in an appropriate way to ensure it delivers for UK audiences, which includes showing restraint on salaries for senior staff."

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