A new report published by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has criticised the UK government for seeking to "bounce" the BBC into accepting a deal that exposed it to "administering welfare benefits," and calls for free TV licences to be restored to over 75s who don’t receive Pension Credit.
North-east MSP Stewart Stevenson has slammed the Tories for their handling of the 2015 negotiations that led to the BBC making decisions regarding welfare payments – ultimately leading to free TV licences for over 75s being scrapped - and has renewed calls for them to be restored after campaigning consistently for them to be saved.
The report finds that the 2015 "flawed" funding negotiations gave no opportunity for consultation with licence fee-payers, that the BBC put itself in the "invidious" position as administrator of welfare benefits, and criticises the 2015 UK government for seeking to ‘bounce’ the BBC into accepting the measures.
The DCMS Committee has recommended that the UK government and BBC work together to find a funding formula to restore free TV licences for over 75s.
Commenting Mr Stevenson, said: “It is downright shameful of the Tories to pass the responsibility of administering much-needed welfare benefits, such as free TV licences, on to a public broadcaster, and this report rightly lays that bare.
“The report was also right to point out the complete lack of transparency surrounding the negotiations and that the BBC cannot be absolved of responsibility. I hope Lord Hall has learned his lesson – don’t do secretive back-stair deals with people you can’t trust.
“The way they handled – or mishandled - the 2015 funding negotiations by not consulting licence fee payers and allowing false reassurances to be made to over 75s is further proof that this Tory government is uncaring and incompetent when it comes to looking after our older generation.
“The SNP warned of the danger of transferring this decision to the BBC. The UK government should now atone for their mistake and work with the BBC to find a funding formula to restore free TV licences for over 75s – we will not let them off the hook over this broken manifesto commitment.”