The NPC has written a letter of complaint to the BBC in regard to two BBC programmes aired on 22 June 2022 which we believe showed bias against pensioners with the potential to increase ageism in an already ageist society.
You can download the letter or read it below
P.O. Box 1922
We write on behalf of the members of the National Pensioners Convention in regard to two BBC programmes aired on 22 June 2022 which showed bias against pensioners with the potential to increase ageism in an already ageist society.
On the BBC Radio 4 Today programme with Nick Robinson and Amol Rajan, when introducing Lord Jim O’Neill, the interviewer spoke about ‘pitching pensioners against young workers’ and ‘workers suffering a real terms pay cut, but pensioners being given 10%’. Lord Jim O’Neill’s response was that ‘constant protection of pensioners is ludicrous and in these circumstances particularly crazy’. He was not asked to justify that remark.
On the BBC Radio 4 World at One programme with Sarah Montague, again the question was framed around the inference that workers’ pay was being held down to give pensioners a 10% rise. This time Lord Clark stated that he owned two houses and had plenty of money, so he didn’t need the increase. There was no statement made in defence of those without the financial means.
In both programmes, the interviewers repeated these opinions before moving onto the next item.
Neither bothered to explore the issue of state pensions and the triple lock, or the prevalent poverty among the pensioner population.
The NPC acknowledges that journalists/interviewers are expected to raise issues of the day, and individuals are entitled to their opinion, but we believe that both these programmes showed bias against the pensioner population which perpetuates ageist attitudes within the media and society in general.
It also shows a sad lack of understanding of the current basic state pension in the UK – the lowest in the industrial world – propped up by means-tested benefits to make the government look good. The majority of pensioners rely on the pre-2016 scheme which means their income is currently £141.85 per week (£7,376.20 pa) and on the post-2016 scheme £185.15 (£9,627.80 pa). A 10% rise will mean £8,113.82 and £10,590.58 pa respectively. Of the 12 million pensioners in the UK, approximately 600,000 could be identified as being ‘wealthy’, with 5.5 million pensioners paying no tax at all, as their income is so low that it doesn’t reach the basic rate tax threshold.
Someone on the National Living Wage of £9.50 per hour working 35 hours a week will have an income of £322.50 (£17,290 pa). With a 5% rise that would become £17,608.80 pa. Comparing pensions with the average earnings of £29,000 pa, is when the stark reality of pensioner poverty kicks in.
Pensioners spend more of their fixed incomes on essentials like food and heating. With over 2 million pensioners living in poverty, coupled with ill health and other complex needs, we believe that not only is the reinstatement of the triple lock necessary, but that the basic state pension must be increased to a level that enables us to live in retirement with dignity.
We have not so far involved Ofcom, but we have taken the opportunity to send a copy of this letter to Clare Sumner, Director of Policy with whom the NPC has met and corresponded with over the last few years.
We await your reply and resolution so that this cause for concern does not happen again. If you prefer to email your response, please do so to: firstname.lastname@example.org.