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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Save free TV licences

FREE TV licences were given to the over-75s in 2000 as part of a Labour government programme to reduce pensioner poverty. Now the Tories say they can’t afford it.

Back in 2015 the Tory-Lib-Dem Coalition government made the BBC responsible for financing the pensioners’ concession. But the BBC say that would cost them £745 million, one-fifth of their entire budget, and force them to make “unprecedented closures” to their radio and television services. The BBC has therefore decided to introduce a means-test. Around 1.5 million people who claim pensions’ credit will be exempt from the charges — but a further 3.7 million pensioners will now have to pay the annual licence fee of £154.50 from next year.

The BBC says that the means testing is “fair” and claims that maintaining the old benefit would lead to closures of a string of services, including BBC Two and BBC Four.

National Pensioners Convention general secretary Jan Shortt said: “Pensioner poverty is now increasing, loneliness is reaching crisis levels among older people and the BBC has the bare-faced cheek to call this fair. It’s an absolute disgrace.”

Caroline Abrahams, the director of Age Concern, says: “Make no mistake, if this scheme goes ahead we are going to see sick and disabled people in their 80s and 90s who are completely dependent on their cherished TV for companionship and news, forced to give it up.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn added: “Pensioners are being failed by the Conservatives. Their 2017 manifesto promised to keep TV licences free for the over-75s. They must not go back on their word now.”

The British Broadcasting Corporation is one of our supposed ‘national treasures’, whose aims are to educate, inform and entertain the public that funds it through the licence fee. The Corporation claims to be a pillar of impartiality and a reliable source of independent news at home and abroad. That was never the case back in the 1920s when the BBC was founded and it is certainly not the case now.

The BBC’s role has always been to serve the ruling class and defend British imperialism. During the Second World War the BBC’s policy of credible reporting easily outshone that of the Nazis. The Corporation later used its war-time skills to churn out sophisticated anti-communist propaganda throughout the Cold War whilst sponsoring the arts and drama to compete with commercial television and justify its licence fee.

Those days are now long gone. Although the state-owned broadcasting service still promotes some serious dramas, its news and current affairs output is just cheap, dumbed-down, third-rate bourgeois propaganda.

It consistently supported NATO aggression against Serbia, Iraq and Libya, and imperialist efforts for regime-change in Syria and Venezuela, whilst turning a blind eye to routine Zionist atrocities against the Palestinians. Obscure Russian, Chinese and Korean dissidents are treated like latter-day Gandhis whilst the ‘Yellow Vests’ in France are ignored. The BBC routinely ignores left-wing opinion whilst uncritically repeating the bogus claims of Jeremy Corbyn’s Tory and Blairite enemies during prime-time viewing. No wonder millions are turning to Russian, Arab and American news networks as well as the social media for their news. But it is still virtually impossible to view anything legally on television without a BBC licence.

Hundreds of thousands of working people are backing campaigns to force a Government U-turn. As Corbyn says: “Pensioners have spent their lives contributing to our society. Providing over-75s with free TV licences is not too much to ask.”