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Express & Star comment: The blame game is favourite show of BBC bosses

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

A new BBC show which is a current favourite of the corporation’s bosses.

Should TV licences be free for the over-75s?

It’s called The Blame Game.

In it the BBC gets rid of free TV licences for the over-75s, and then blames somebody else – the Government.

The BBC has come in for some serious criticism since it announced its plans to bash the sector of the population which holds the Beeb in the highest respect and has given a lifetime of support to a cherished institution.

The move, which the broadcaster says will save nearly £750 billion over the next three years, has gone down like another run of Inspector George Gently repeats with the British public, prompting growing calls for the licence fee to be scrapped altogether.

In this newspaper today, the Beeb has sought to defend its position, with director Clare Sumner putting the blame firmly at the door of the Government.

She is right to say that Parliament passed responsibility for the scheme onto the BBC, leaving bosses with a difficult decision of whether to cut the benefit, or the services on offer.

The BBC insists that those who struggle to pay, won’t have to pay, and it is important to remember that pensioners eligible to receive pension credit can get a free licence.

The trouble with that argument is that many pensioners who are eligible for pension credit don’t actually claim it.

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From the view of older folk, there is a similar flaw in the argument that if the BBC doesn’t scrap free telly for the over-75s, it will have to scrap other services instead.

Some of those other services are not going to be anything a lot of older people would miss. They are often quite happy with their core television channels. There is then a strategic and philosophical question for the BBC.

It is whether it wants to upset older viewers, and potentially deprive them in their old age of the comfort of a television, which may be their only entertainment and window on the world if they are housebound and alone, or alternatively whether it wants to pursue the “youth vote,” as it were, and invest in a battle with all the other providers competing to capture the attention of the younger generation.

Those of the older generation are the greatest friends of the BBC. And kicking your greatest friends in the teeth is an odd way to show gratitude. Loyalty works both ways.

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