Why are the BBC going after our most vulnerable?



Elderly citizens are the least likely of all age groups to watch online streaming services. Many, instead, rely on traditional TV for much of their entertainment and today the BBC confirmed plans to force three million extra households occupied by the 75s to pay their punitive £157.50 licence fee.

These people, some of them vulnerable, had previously been exempt. From August 1, they will be made to pay under the threat of state violence, regardless of their income and regardless of the fact some will not watch any BBC programming on their TV.

We here at Defund the BBC think this is unfair.

For one, younger people are much more likely to ulitise online services like Netflix and Disney Plus, and doing so does not mean they forced to pay for BBC iPlayer and other online content. However, older people who only watch Sky, Channel 5, and other non-BBC channels on traditional TV must, legally, pay for the BBC simply for watching live TV.

It’s a bit like forcing everyone with a Wifi connection or a YouTube account to pay for the BBC simply because they are online. We would not stand for it and we should not accept the BBC targeting TV owners, particularly elderly ones, in the way they now are.

We don’t think anyone in the UK, young or old, should be threatened with jail for not funding the BBC, but this week’s announcement seems doubly unfair as the BBC is also increasingly directing it’s cash towards chasing a younger audience who it is struggling to appeal to.

Auntie is ramping up its output of trendy podcasts and online shows whilst simultaneously announcing they will lay off around one in six people who work at the corporation, mostly in local news.

Inefficiency and unjustified six-figure salaries are part of the problem. But the BBC is also pumping out more and more “youth” content such as the now-infamous podcast which asked last week “how not to be a Karen” – a term which is perceived as abusive to some working class and white women. In the podcast, such women were told to “shut up” and “get out of the way” because of the colour of their skin.

Many people, including some MPs, called the show “racist” and vowed to cancel their license because of it. Which is why Defund the BBC was pleased we managed to get the content taken down from social media.

Also this week, the BBC announced it was considering scrapping Politics Live, previously known as the Daily Politics, and the Andrew Neil Show. Anecdotally, they are some of the few BBC shows enjoyed by people of all ages, as well as those on the political right, largely thanks to Neil’s interviewing.

It’s hard to make sense of it all. Are lefty podcasts about “white privilege” and shows about reality TV like Love Island now more important to the BBC than their most valued political content and local journalism?

Yet, in our view, this and the question of BBC bias is not the central issue. If the BBC was funded by ads like other public service broadcasts, like Channel 4, or became a subscription service, they would be free to produce whatever content their paying customers and clients wanted.

But as it is, millions more will be forced to pay for the BBC, just when they feel like the corporation is ignoring them. These people are entitled to ask questions and demand answers.

Which is why we are ramping up our campaign here at Defund the BBC and we’re asking for the support of all those who want better broadcasters in the UK. People can give to the campaign via our Go Fund Me Page.

Our aims are simple: we want to educate people on the BBC’s deliberately confusing rules, so they can legally avoid paying under current rules, as well as campaign to change the rules and end the criminalisation of non-payment, which seems to disproportionately affect the poor and women.

Women make up more than 70% Licence Fee prosecutions, despite committing just 20% of all other crimes. No group should be forced to pay for a product or service they do now want, especially one they feel is morally or ideologically out of step with them.

Recently Television will have been an important source of companionship for millions of older people, trapped at home during lockdown. Many will not be able to find the cash for the Licence fee and some could be sent to jail for not paying it.

More than 600,000 have already signed an Age UK petition against the changes, which must be reconsidered. In a statement today, the charity said:

“We genuinely worry about the mental health of older people living on their own in this situation if they have to give up their cherished TV – for some it really is all they have and their main way of alleviating their chronic loneliness.”

Is this the right way to treat the elderly, who have been so badly hit by the crisis, and help the nation recover? If you think not, support Defund the BBC today.

Chip into the Defund the BBC campaign here.

Liam Deacon is Head of Press for Defund the BBC and former Head of Press for the Brexit Party. Follow him on twitter: @LiamDeacon