Ministers ‘have lost the plot’ on fairer funding for TV licences

Campaigners say the government has ”done nothing” since vowing changes last April.

The Government’s Broadcasting White Paper pledged that a detailed plan for the shake-up clarifying the future of the £159 annual charge would be set out within months.

The review document also included a warning which says ministers are “particularly concerned” that “vulnerable elderly people” are at risk of falling foul of enforcement action now that the free licence fee for older viewers has been scrapped.

It noted: “The Government also remains concerned that the licence fee is enforced by criminal sanctions, which the Government sees as increasingly disproportionate and unfair in a modern public service broadcasting system.

“We are particularly concerned that, following the end of the free TV licence concession for over 75s, there is the potential for licence fee enforcement action to be taken against vulnerable elderly people.”

Published by then Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, the White Paper, promised a review within months.

It said: “The Government will therefore carry out a review of the licence funding model and we intend to set out more detailed plans for that review in the coming months.”

Despite the pledge, campaigners say no “framework or timetable” for the review has been announced, leaving many elderly in limbo.

It also appears that the BBC has had no high-level contact with the Government over the review in the last year.

At a meeting with Clare Sumner, the Director of Policy at the BBC last week, Dennis Reed, Director of Silver Voices was told that “no discussions with the Government” have taken place on this issue.

She said it was in the Government’s hands when to approach the BBC.

Mr Reed said: “Senior citizens who are being bullied and targeted by TV Licensing deserve better than this.

“We need to be engaged in early discussions with the Government and the BBC on a fairer way of funding broadcasting, based on ability to pay, and recognising the unique reliance of older people on affordable TV for public information, entertainment and company.

“The Government, during its many ministerial changes, appears to have lost the plot on the promised review of the licence system.

Why has no action on the issue occurred in the last 12 months? Whether the Government likes it or not the TV licence will be a big issue at the next General Election and all the political parties will need to have answers”.

The licence is guaranteed until 2027 when the Royal Charter for the corporation is due for renewal.

Options to replace it may include subscriptions or linking access to programming via another household bill. Previous bids to find a fresh way of funding the public broadcaster have failed to get off the ground.

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