Greg Lance – Watkins
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how can anyone consider this level of payment other than an obscene rip off:
one can hardly consider the BBC with its endless bias and tedious propaganda to be anything like good value when you consider: Last autumn, for instance, the Taxpayers’ Alliance published research showing that more than 250 BBC executives earn £150,000 a year or more; that’s undeniably a lot of grossly over paid desk-wallahs. Among this gilded company is the BBC’s “diversity tsar”, June Sarpong, who commands the salary of £267,000 for a three day week. That works out at about £1,700 a day, and paying for this righteous woke warrior takes the equivalent of nearly 1,700 licence fees.
Then consider the salaries of those in production and the commentariat – a grossly over-paid collection of individuals feeding off of the compulsory tax levied on the electorate whether they watch the low grade and frequently offensive output of the BBC:
To many people, £159 is not a huge sum of money; it’s the kind of amount they’d spend on a special meal or a night out. But to many others, hard-up state pensioners among them, it is a significant sum. And, from now on, it’s the amount that everyone is going to have to stump up for the privilege of watching the BBC – with no exceptions. Because at midnight on Saturday, the Corporation ended, for good, the concession (delayed by a year) which exempted over-75s from paying the licence fee.
The fact that the BBC is taking such a hard line with one of the least affluent and most disadvantaged groups in the country tells us something about the fast-developing cash crisis at the Corporation. Last year, for the first time, revenue from the licence fee dropped by around £350 million, as upwards of 200,000 people stopped paying it. And that seems likely to be a continuing trend: younger people, who are used to getting their news and entertainment online, seem increasingly resistant to the demands of the national broadcaster.
What’s more, some of BBC’s best-known faces and voices have been moved on. Older viewers and listeners tend, for obvious reasons, to be set in their ways, and such changes always cause resentment. Shows such as Holby City are being retired, old favourites such as All Creatures Great and Small haven’t been picked up, and the replacement fare often seems lacklustre. It seems a long time since we had a ratings-busting costume drama from the BBC, and serious arts programming is at a low ebb. Expert broadcasters such as Mark Pougatch and Cornelius Lysaght on Radio 5 Live, or Ian Skelly on Radio 3, have disappeared. BBC Four, the BBC channel with the oldest viewership, will become a repeats channel, while an extra £40m is diverted to BBC Three.
On top of that doubled generational pressure, there is the increasingly well organised “Defund the BBC” campaign, which urges people (young or old) not to pay because of the woke bias of BBC output. The Corporation’s finances have thus become trapped in a pincer movement: changed expectations on one side, vengeful culture-warrior opponents on the other – all compounded by the additional problem that older viewers are no longer content.
It’s worth reprising how we reached this point. The original decision to exempt the over-75s was taken in 2001, when Gordon Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the 1997 election campaign, Tony Blair had promised to stick to Tory spending limits for a few years; that meant money was tight. But the offer of free TV licences to the oldest was a cheap measure that generated good headlines and doubtless some gratitude from older, poorer (and usually Conservative) voters. Yet the cost kept rising. By 2016, the estimated cost to the Treasury was around £750 million – not chicken-feed – and George Osborne, then Chancellor, wanted to offload this commitment.
The BBC’s charter was due for renewal in 2017, so a deal was struck: in return for an inflation-proofed licence-fee settlement, the BBC undertook to fund the exemption out of its own resources. They said it would be reviewed after three years, but most people assumed it would be honoured; after all, a financial concession for the elderly is the kind of issue the BBC generally likes to get behind. After the negotiation was settled, the Director-General Tony Hall – he who was embroiled in the 25 year Martin Bashir cover-up – described it as a “good deal”. All seemed to be set fair.
For decades, the amount of money the BBC raised through the licence fee had kept rising, but now, alarmingly for the Corporation’s high command, it’s dropping, and quickly too. There are said to be 260,000 pensioners who have yet to stump up. To be fair to the Corporation, they are the biggest consumers of so-called “linear TV” – that is to say, the kind of telly-watching where you sit down, switch on and consume what the schedulers are serving up. So, all else being equal, there’s a kind of rough justice in making those viewers pay their fair share.
But what sticks in the craw, and weakens the BBC’s case, is that you don’t have to look hard to find stories of BBC profligacy. It’s not a good look for any public organisation to be wasting money while coming down hard on individuals, some of whom will have to make savings elsewhere to find that £159. According to some pensioner pressure-groups, many will be forced to economise on essentials such as food and fuel to meet the BBC’s demands.
The chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, Julian Knight MP, has suggested that the Corporation “love-bomb” the elderly, by adopting a softly-softly approach to remind recalcitrant oldies of just what good value it is. But I have another suggestion: the BBC should strive much harder to make economies, without the kind of cheese-paring measures that diminish the quality and appeal of its programming.
Last autumn, for instance, the Taxpayers’ Alliance published research showing that more than 250 BBC executives earn £150,000 a year or more; that’s a lot of highly paid desk-wallahs. Among this gilded company is the BBC’s “diversity tsar”, June Sarpong, who commands the salary of £267,000 for a three day week. That works out at about £1,700 a day, and paying for this righteous woke warrior takes the equivalent of nearly 1,700 licence fees.
When that final demand comes clattering through the letterbox of some hard-up pensioner, no longer able to watch Holby or listen to their favourite radio presenter, they might well resent the fact that their widows’ mite is being used to keep Sarpong, and many others, in clover. The BBC’s drive to get old people to pay their dues would be on firmer ground, and yield better results, if began to trim some of its salaries – and focus on giving older generations, as well as younger, the programmes and presenters they want to see and hear.
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