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Carmichael criticises TV licensing approach

Alistair Carmichael MP.

Northern Isles MP, Alistair Carmichael has criticised the UK Government over their approach to allowing the BBC to end free TV licences for the over 75s.

The move, expected to raise around £750 million a year for the BBC, has come about as the Government transferred responsibility to pay for TV Licences for the over 75s away from the taxpayer, and onto the BBC, who have elected to abolish the freebie.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr. Carmichael said: “Surely the point is this, you cannot provide financial certainty for the BBC at the expense of the over 75s.

“Whether it was right or not to give the power to the BBC in the Digital Economy Act is not the issue. We have to look at this on the basis of the outcomes, not processes and will the Minister not accept that for the over 75s, the outcomes look pretty grim.”

Responding on behalf of the Government, Margot James MP said: “I thank the Rt. Hon. Gentleman for his intervention and I am sure that the BBC will listen to the comments which he just made with which I have considerable sympathy. This was part of a fair deal for the BBC. At the time the BBC Director General, and I have already quoted him, that he did say also that it was a strong deal for the BBC and that it provided financial stability.”

Adding further comment, Mr. Carmichael said: “It is easy to say you are sympathetic but still the Government is doing nothing to set it right. They have tried to duck responsibility by pushing it onto the BBC, but this is not about who is responsible, but what the impact is on the people who will be affected.

“Over 75s are often on a low fixed pension, so to suddenly have an extra £150 outgoing is a huge chunk of their income. Many older people are reliant on their TVs as a way of avoiding loneliness and stripping them of their TV Licence is likely to leave significant numbers unable to watch their favourite programmes.”

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