Leader comment: Time for the BBC to get priorities right

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Broadcaster should think again about decision to scrap free licences for the over 75s.

Cash-starved local authorities charging extra for garden waste collections; weeks to wait for a GP appointment; wmbulances failing to turn up on time across Scotland; taxes on the rise.

A free TV Licence will only be available to households with someone aged over 75 who receives Pension Credit from June 2020, the BBC has announced. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

A free TV Licence will only be available to households with someone aged over 75 who receives Pension Credit from June 2020, the BBC has announced. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

And now, for those who have spent a lifetime working and paying into the public purse, the sting in the tail is that the BBC licence fee will no longer be free for over 75s. Households without someone who receives Pension Credit will now have to pay in full for the licence.

The BBC receives almost £4 billion of public money every year but still cannot balance the books.

It has to be recognised that free licences for over 75s are not cheap – but surely the Corporation would do well to look at the myriad of existing output which doesn’t need to be paid for with public money.

The BBC should exist to provide the services that the market cannot or will not. Radio 1? Are we seriously to believe that a commercial provider cannot do this just as well.

A website that is growing and has increasingly lost its way. Search for “Eurovision 2019 Party Pack” on the internet to see just a single example of content that is not required to be paid for with taxpayers’ money.

And the new BBC Scotland Nine? Regardless of content, few people are watching. It needs to change quickly or be scrapped.

Meanwhile, senior citizens are to be told to pay £154.50.

The BBC said “fairness” was at the heart of the ruling, but it’s difficult to see how this can be when so much money is being wasted elsewhere.

Anyone with an older relative knows that TV is a key form of companionship. Loneliness is an epidemic. The BBC is facing extreme financial pressures, but so is every media outlet.

It is time the broadcaster made significant changes to its output to ensure that its programming is always adding value, and not simply replicating the market. Only once this has happened will it be able to call on our sympathy.