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BBC thrashes out licence fee deal

The BBC is to cover the £650m (US$1bn) cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s, following a deal that will see an end to the freeze on the licence fee.

Hall: Deal brings 'financial stability'

Hall: Deal brings
‘financial stability’

The changes will be phased in from 2018, when the cost is set to rise to £700m due to an ageing population. The UK pubcaster will take on the full bill from 2020/21.

The agreement, revealed just days after the BBC said it would shed 1,000 jobs, was announced in the House of Commons by culture secretary John Whittingdale yesterday.

In return for the BBC taking on the £650m burden, the government has promised to allow the £145.50 fee to rise in line with inflation and to introduce legislation that would stop people watching its iPlayer catch-up service without a licence.

BBC director general Tony Hall has defended the deal, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ”It gives us financial stability and the ability to plan for the future.”

The chair of UK indie association Pact, Laura Mansfield, recently warned that cuts to the BBC could damage the wider creative industry.

She said there was a “very real concern that if the licence fee is reduced, frozen or there are huge other areas of spend put in, that’s a very, very real concern, not just to producers but to the entire creative sector in this country.”

Shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant said Labour would oppose the government’s plans if they were a “smash-and-grab raid” on the BBC.

The BBC charter – which sets out how the corporation is governed – is due for renewal at the end of 2016.

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