Helen Martin: BBC has a licence to print money – they should share it with old people

Millions of over-75s will no longer be checking the TV listings pages for some entertainment because they wont be able to afford a licenceMillions of over-75s will no longer be checking the TV listings pages for some entertainment because they wont be able to afford a licence
Millions of over-75s will no longer be checking the TV listings pages for some entertainment because they wont be able to afford a licence
AS the BBC has decided to end free licences for many over-75s, yet still dole them out to MPs, the ­question is how (not legally, but morally and historically) it has the right to do so.In 1923, the Wireless Telegraphy Act introduced a licence for radio sets. In 1946 that was extended to include new televisions, at a cost of £2. At that stage the public only had access to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). It was 1971 before radios were exempt.

A public broadcasting service is defined as providing information, being impartial, giving public advice, and entertainment without trying to be ­commercial and making a profit.

That is not the BBC today. It is commercial, selling its productions across the globe, charging for its own production services, and entering ­massive deals to have exclusive rights to show certain live sports events. It is not “impartial” and certainly not politically – I assume because it is dependent on the government maintaining its licensing rights. It gives no more information than other news-bearing channels (except possibly parliamentary broadcasts prior to elections).

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Many people admire that it doesn’t interrupt its programmes with “commercials” – TV ads. That’s something that all other channels – and newspapers – have to do in order to survive. Unlike them, the Beeb gets an annual fee per household of almost £155, thus charging the public, not advertisers.

Some aspects of its spending are downright shocking. Former player and current football presenter Gary Lineker is paid £1.75 million a year! Another interesting part of its “impartiality” and costing is its method of football reporting. There is not one, professional, objective, fair, reporter covering each match. There are several, many behaving as biased screeching fans of one side or the other, or a whole bunch, each of whom are there to serve specific, regional BBC radio and TV stations.

The nonsensical idea that the licence fee in the UK relates to people having a television is preposterous nowadays. The dosh goes only to the BBC rather than the public purse or any other of the dozens of channels the UK can enjoy on Freeview, channels who don’t charge anything.

Obviously, many people pay Sky, Virgin, BT etc for special packages including sports, movies, kids’ shows and other personalised choices. While some comfortably-off over-75s might do the same, there are millions of their age group who can’t even afford the licence.Loneliness is one of the worst aspects of advanced ageing. There may be day ­outings or visits but for the rest of the time, especially at night, television is the only ‘company’ many can rely on.

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Means testing to exempt those on Pension Credit won’t work. Millions will be on the borderline – not on Pension Credit but unable to pay, or too scared to pay, when facing bills for heating and eating. A huge number don’t even apply for Pension Credit when they are eligible.

In Ireland, all over-70s are exempt from the TV licence and what’s more, its RTE Public Service Broadcasting Charter is basically about its role to the people, whereas the BBC’s is like a self-interest legal and government document.

The BBC can’t afford to match that or make its vows to the public? That doesn’t surprise me any more than this government’s failure to control the BBC on behalf of the people, especially vulnerable elderly

Pet peeve about corporate vets

PET owners are beginning to realise something awful is happening in the veterinary industry.

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Practices are being taken over by large corporate machines who often lay down different rules and higher costs.

The higher the costs, the higher pet insurance is going to become. Since it’s already extremely expensive, fewer people will be able to afford to home dogs, cats or other animals. Will more homeless pets eventually be put down? With corporate hierarchy there can be procedural and treatment edicts, something that can overrule what an experienced, highly-qualified, gifted, intuitive vet might consider the best option.

I’ve experienced all that myself in the past and had to switch clinics. Sadly, this seems to be the way the whole industry is going. Unlike the NHS it is all, apart from charities such as the PDSA, a private, commercial process and such expansion is probably inevitable in business terms.

But in terms of loving animals, caring for them, giving the treatment they need and finding them new homes for a new life, this sucks…

Food for thought

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BEFORE anyone responds to this, let me say again I am not a committed nationalist but I get extremely irritated by non-Scottish recognition and UK generalisation.

Chris Packham and Kate Humble presented 13 episodes of Springwatch this year from the Cairngorms. Chris referred to “our Capital London”. From the Cairngorms? Why not just say “London”?

Then a YouGov survey of favourite foods included kippers, haggis and black pudding as among the least liked food in the UK – along with London’s jellied eels and Welsh laverbread.

Obviously, culture, traditions and regular food produce is different up here, in London’s East End and Wales. So why conduct such a pointless UK survey when we really are different countries in a union?

Put block on flats

STUDENT flats in Edinburgh are predicted to soar by 20 per cent within about five years. They’re all hideous, boxy building blocks ruining our architecture.