BBC TV licence fee for over 75s branded a 'scandal' by AndersonThe National Audit Office has said drastic shifts in viewing habits show “uncertaint
BBC TV licence fee for over 75s branded a ‘scandal’ by Anderson
The National Audit Office has said drastic shifts in viewing habits show “uncertainty over the BBC’s financial future”. Its share of younger audiences has been “under pressure”, the report said.
“Falling audience share poses a financial risk as people are less likely to pay the licence fee if they do not view licensable content,” the NAO said in the report revealed by PA.
The BBC’s licence fee income fell by £310 million between 2017-18 and 2019-20, to £3.52 billion.
It has faced fierce criticism of late, notably from former cricketer Ian Botham last week.
Mr Botham, a member of the House of Lords since September last year, urged BBC Director General Tim Davie to award over-75s a free TV licence.
BBC Wales building in Cardiff
BBC iPlayer as shown on a PC monitor
Writing in The Telegraph, he said the situation was “causing no end of worry” to the age group.
The broadcaster also came under the spotlight when incoming chairman Richard Sharp, a Brexiteer and former Goldman Sachs banker, appeared before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
In response to a question about whether the corporation was “too woke”, he said it had to consider whether there was “groupthink” within the decision-making process.
Groupthink is a term used to describe poor-quality decisions made due to a greater desire for harmony or conformity within a group.
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BBC iPlayer as it appears on a smartphone
Last year the BBC cut the free licence for over-75s, with some exemptions for islanders in Britain and those on Pension Credit benefits.
Between 2017 and 2020, there was a 450,000 fall in the number of non-over-75 households buying TV licences.
This was due to changes in audience viewing habits and more of these households qualifying for a free over-75 licence, the report notes.
The broadcaster began negotiations with the Government in November last year about the future funding it will receive from the licence fee.
Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: “The BBC faces significant financial challenges as it embarks upon licence fee negotiations and its mid-term charter review.
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BBC production in process
BBC studios exterior at night
“It has made significant cost savings and has identified the need for more with licence fee income under pressure.
“As decisions about the licence fee are made, the BBC needs to develop a clear financial plan for the future, setting out where it will invest and how it will continue to make savings.
“Without such a plan, it will be difficult for the BBC to effectively implement its new strategic priorities.”
The NAO report said the BBC’s “principal source of income, the licence fee, has also declined, and the BBC now faces considerable uncertainty about the income it will receive from the licence fee”.
In 2019-20, the BBC generated a total income of £4.943 billion, of which £3.52 billion was public funding from the TV licence fee.
BBC News projected on a screen at Media City Salford
Campaign group Defund the BBC has accused the broadcaster of failing to represent a variety of opinions.
The protest group has amassed nearly 100,000 Twitter followers since it was launched last June and is urging people to cancel their TV licences.
In a recent Tweet, Defund the BBC said: “You pay. They preach.
“The only way for us all to force the BBC to change is to switch to on-demand and #DefundTheBBC by legally cancelling our TV licences.
“With the added bonus being, once you’ve done that you won’t care what they do.”
BBC radio audience time has also declined among adults, PA notes, falling by 15 percent between 2013-14 and 2019-20