Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Don't Ignore the Over 75s

I read in the Jersey Hansard recently:

“What discussions, if any, have taken place with the relevant authorities to investigate the possibly of the BBC funding free TV licences for the over 75s in a similar arrangement to that which has been announced in the UK?”


“The BBC has agreed to take on the cost of free television licences for over-75s in the UK. This will be phased in from 2018/19 with the BBC taking on the full costs from 2020/21, at which point the BBC will decide on the future of free TV licences for over-75s in the UK.”

“Jersey Government officials are in contact with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on this matter. In early discussions it was established that the agreement between the UK Government and the BBC regarding over-75s licences only applies to over-75s in the UK and not to the Crown Dependencies. This is partly due to the fact that the social security systems of the jurisdictions are separate.”

“There has been further correspondence between Jersey Government officials and the DCMS to explore the options available for a similar agreement between the BBC and the Government of Jersey. Discussion with DCMS and the BBC are continuing on this issue, as well as on the future of the BBC and the renewal of its charter.”

The BBC has agreed to take on the cost of free TV for the over 75s mainly because the UK government has told them to. I hope our discussions are not just looking at options, but also looking to lay down the law in the same way. It would be rather pathetic if supine discussions led to the Channel Islands being the only places in the British Isles where the BBC just collected TV licences for the over 75s.

I notice that Guernsey - which provides free TV licences to all over 75, not means tested as in Jersey, says:

"The recent announcement of the proposed change in the UK, with a requirement that the BBC should bear the cost of the free licences for over-75s, may well change the position locally."

And in the Isle of Man, we have this recent news:

"Plans to provide free television licences for over 75s in the Island remain firmly on the government agenda, the Treasury minister insists. Eddie Teare today told Tynwald the BBC has been asked to include the Isle of Man in proposals to offer exemption to those over the age of 75, a move which would be phased in from 2018. Mr Teare said it would help meet one of the Manx government's three principles - to protect the vulnerable."

Essentially, the UK will change the law so that an agreement is in place forcing the BBC and not the UK government has to fund the over 75s licence. The BBC will accept this: they have little choice.

What would they do if we told them they would have to fund the deficit because we would follow the UK suit? Would they pull out of transmission in the Channel Islands, knowing that people with satellite signals would still be as able as those in Normandy to watch free of charge? Would it be worth losing all the under 75s who would continue paying an annual charge of of £145.50?

I think it is time for tough negotiations; we owe it to the elderly.

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