Minister calls on BBC to ‘do more’ to support older people

Older people need more support from the BBC during the pandemic, a minister has said.

The broadcaster agreed to take on responsibility for funding over-75s TV licences, which had previously been free, as part of the charter agreement hammered out with the Government in 2015, but has since said it cannot afford to continue the universal benefit.

The corporation was set to introduce means-testing at the start of last month but the move was delayed until August because of Covid-19.

During digital, culture, media and sport questions, Labour’s Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) called for greater support for pensioners.

He added: “For many older and vulnerable residents, losing their free television licence not only means losing entertainment, losing a source of news, but also losing companionship which is hugely important as we go into winter and many people across the country are facing restrictions on movement.

“So will the minister do the right thing, stop hiding behind the BBC, take another look at this policy and stick to his manifesto commitment and keep free television licences for over 75s until 2022?”

Responding for the Government, culture minister John Whittingdale said: “Well can I say to (Mr Jones) that the Conservative manifesto did say that we believed that it should be funded by the BBC.

“It is the case that those on low incomes and eligible for pension credit will continue to receive a free licence and I hope that all those who may be eligible make sure that they are receiving pension credit.

“And the Government continues to believe that the BBC does need to do more to support older people.”