BBC Hands Staff Pay Raises While Cutting Free TV Licences for Elderly

More than 1,000 staff at the BBC have been handed pay raises of between 10 and more than 20 per cent, while the corporation continues to claim it cannot afford to provide free television licences for over-75s.

The figures obtained by The Times and reported on Tuesday revealed that last year, 889 staff were awarded pay raises of between 10 and 20 per cent and 256 were given pay raises higher than 20 per cent, averaging a rise of £6,980 per staff member.

The pay raises are related to the 19,000 staff who work at the corporation’s public service arm and does not include those who may have received raises who work for BBC Studios, and excludes salary increases of actors and presenters. Those pay raises alone cost the licence fee payers £7.9 million, according to the newspaper, which could have paid for 51,000 television licences for pensioners.

The BBC claims it cannot offer a free service to over-75s, previously paid for through the government by taxpayers, after the broadcaster had agreed in 2015 to take on the responsibility.

The broadcaster is funded by a licence fee rather than through advertising, but unlike subscription services such as Netflix or Sky, there is no opt out or choice not to purchase if you own a television. If you watch programmes live — or download or watch BBC material on iPlayer — and have not paid the £154.50 licence fee, you are breaking the law and could be fined up to £1,000 for illegally watching TV. Failure to pay the fine can also result in a court appearance, prosecution, and imprisonment.

A BBC spokesman said that some of the pay raises were as a result of promotions or staff taking on extra work, but Jan Shortt, the general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), told The Times that the raises were “completely and utterly” unacceptable, saying: “It’s sickening that they would consider giving these rises at a time when they are claiming they don’t have the money to fund over-75s’ licences.”

The BBC revealed last month that it planned to send “outreach” officers to the elderly to remind them that they will now have to pay to watch TV from June 2020, with concerns that such home visits would be upsetting to senior citizens.

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