The NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt has written to the new Chairman of the Board of the BBC and a right of reply letter to the editor of the Daily Mail.
The letter to Mr Sharp - Chairman of the Board of the BBC.
Dear Mr. Sharp,
First of all, congratulations on your appointment as Chairman of the Board of the BBC.
Secondly, we would like to say thank you for your initial statement regarding the use of a subscription system. This would exclude so many older people and others of all age groups who are not digitally connected. Also, thank you for the introduction of educational programmes to serve those young people without access to technology during lockdown. Grandparents have been worried for their grandchildren not able to attend school in the normal way.
As you will be aware, the older generation are the largest audience the BBC has and we are still campaigning for the government to take back responsibility for the full funding of the free TV licence for over 75s. We strongly believe that it is the government who are responsible for funding social welfare not your broadcasting corporation. We hope you agree and that there is a force for change in your forthcoming negotiations.
The National Pensioners Convention’s main objective is to promote the welfare and interests of all pensioners, as a way of securing dignity, respect and financial security in retirement for today and the future. We have around 1.5 million members in 1,000 groups across the UK and campaign on many issues affecting older people.
It is quite clear that the BBC needs to change to be fit for purpose for the future, and one of our policies is to campaign for a state funded, independent media that serves the people honestly and without bias; that challenges fake news and promotes a schedule of programmes that are as diverse as the audience of viewers. Sadly, your predecessor had a very lax view of bias and we are hoping that there will be a more robust attitude towards changing the emphasis in favour of public information being open and transparent.
During the pandemic the BBC has been a fantastic source of information for those without technology. Local radio stations supported our call to be the hub of information and sign-posting for those who cannot shop on line or access other day to day essentials, or were in need of support and help. The government must recognise the role the whole of the BBC has played and understand that without it, a lot of citizens (particularly the older generation) would not have known or understood what was required of them.
The road ahead is not an easy one, but we are sure you and Tim Davie will be a formidable team.
Letter to the editor
Re: Right of reply to ‘Value for Money’ letter on increase to TV licence fee
On behalf of the National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC), I would like to respond to a Letter to the Editor under the heading ‘Value for Money,’ printed in your issue on Thursday 11 February. We wish to exercise our right of reply to the letter (which specifically names the NPC and myself as General Secretary) with factual information that challenges the judgemental attitude of the writer.
The NPC represents around 1.5 million pensioners across the UK in affiliated groups. Our main objective is to promote the welfare and interests of all pensioners, as a way of securing dignity, respect and financial security in retirement. We do this not just for the pensioners of today but for those who will retire in the future. Safeguarding what we have now will mean that those who follow us will not be treated less favourably.
Our campaign for the free TV licence for all over 75’s challenges the government’s decision to off-load the responsibility to the BBC. The BBC are a broadcasting company not an arm of the DWP and the country’s welfare services.
The writer of the ‘Value for Money’ letter seems to believe an extra £1.50 a year for a TV licence would be hardly ‘noticeable’ to most people. The NPC would firstly like your readers to understand that there are hundreds of thousands of older people whose incomes are already stretched to the limit. Their incomes are just £1 or £2 above the pension credit level that would allow them to access a free TV licence if they are over 75. (Currently the weekly cost of paying for a TV licence is around £3 – a lot of money for many).
Secondly, the increase in the licence fee is set by the government, not by the BBC.
We would like people to understand this licence fee rise is not the only increase older people will be met with this year. There will be increases in rent, council tax, utility bills and food – all needing to be found from a fixed income just above pension credit level.
Thirdly, poverty is increasing in the pensioner population, i.e.18 per cent of those aged 80-84 and 21 per cent of those aged over 85, compared to 15 per cent of 65-69 year olds. Poverty affects 14 per cent of women compared to 17 per cent of men with 22 per cent of single women pensioners, compared to 19 per cent of single men and 13 per cent of couples. In total the number of older people impacted by poverty has risen to 1.9 million.
Every day, older people are making critical decisions about how to spend their money. Do they eat, heat their homes in this cold weather, or pay for a TV licence? Now they will have a very stark choice as inflated bills fall through the letter box.
Loneliness and isolation have a massive impact on the physical, emotional and mental well-being of older people. The TV is often the only companion and source of information older people have. That is why the NPC will continue to argue for free TV licences to be reinstated to all over 75’s fully funded by the government as part of a wider package of entitlements that serve to supplement the least adequate state pension in the economically developed world.
Value for money - letter to editor - 11 February