Belfast Telegraph

Hall was not given any option but to accept licence fee deal, says BBC chairman

Sir David Clementi spoke during the Voice Of The Listener And Viewer’s autumn conference in London.

Sir David Clementi (Jeff Overs/BBC)
Sir David Clementi (Jeff Overs/BBC)

By Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter

BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall was not given “any option” but to accept responsibility for funding the TV licence fee for over-75s, the chairman of the corporation has said.

The BBC agreed to take on responsibility for funding the scheme as part of the charter agreement hammered out in 2015.

From June next year, the benefit will be restricted to over-75s who claim pension credit, with the BBC saying it cannot afford to take on the financial burden from the Government.

Sir David Clementi spoke during the Voice Of The Listener And Viewer’s (VLV) autumn conference in London.

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BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

He was asked whether Lord Hall had made a “strategic error” in accepting the 2015 deal.

Sir David said: “I think the deal needs to be seen in the context of the time, 2015.

“The Conservatives had just won the last election. For the first time they got to form a majority government rather than a coalition.

“I wasn’t there but I have spoken to a lot of people who were there. I don’t think Lord Hall was given any option.”

Sir David also refused to say whether Lord Hall should have threatened to resign in 2015.

He added: “We think the decision is fair to those over the age of 75 who most need our help and fair to all our audiences amongst whom there was no support for the very significant cut in BBC services.

“It would have included BBC Two, BBC Four, Radio 5 Live, Radio 5 Live Extra, the Scotland channel, the news channel and some local radio stations.

We have carried out our responsibilities to the letter Sir David Clementi

“No appetite at all for these types of cuts that would have been required if the concession had been extended to all.

“We believe we made the decision that was the best way to balance help for those most in need so the BBC could continue to provide a range of services that served all audiences.

“Importantly we have carried out the terms of that 2015 agreement that was reflected in the 2017 Digital Economy Act.

“We have carried out our responsibilities to the letter.”

Sir David was in conversation with media journalist Raymond Snoddy.

The theme of the one-day conference was Public Service Broadcasting: The Threats, Challenges And Opportunities Ahead.

PA

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