The BBC is being made to choose between shutting channels and depriving lonely elderly people of company


By defunding the TV licence for over-75s, the government is putting the BBC between a rock and a hard place.

The BBC is being made to choose between shutting channels and depriving lonely elderly people of company

The BBC is facing a tough decision. Which is more important: its budget or old people?

By defunding free TV licences for over-75s next year, this is, paraphrased somewhat, the question the government has put to the corporation. If you care so much about the elderly being able to watch telly, the Conservative party has asked the BBC, why don’t you pay for them to do so?

Doing so will cost the BBC £745m by 2022, a fifth of its current budget; as much as the total amount spent on the entirety of BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News channel, CBBC and CBeebies. Hardly surprising then that the BBC has warned it will have to close channels.

The alternative, expecting the over-75s to pay for their own TV licences, is not a viable option for many. “Scrapping the free licence could potentially push around 50,000 more pensioners below the poverty line,” says Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director. She adds that “just over 40 per cent of people aged 75+ in the UK won’t be able to afford a TV licence, or will have to cut back on essentials to pay for it”.

The problem, which the government is ignoring, is not that our elderly will no longer be able to watch back-to-back Bargain Hunt and Homes under the Hammer: it’s the reason they are doing so in the first place.

The UK is in the midst of an epidemic of loneliness, and it’s the elderly who have been hardest hit. The number of over-75s living alone now stands at 2.2 million, over half the age group, and it’s a figure that’s risen by a quarter in the past 20 years. With half of all over-75s disabled, and yet more in ill health, many are left housebound and isolated.

The further you look, the more alarming the stats become. Half a million older people go at least five days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all. For 200,000 of them, it has been more than a month since they last had a conversation with a friend or relative. According to Laura Alcock-Ferguson, chief executive of the Campaign to End Loneliness, television is the main source of company for almost half of older people.

Theresa May, who quietly broke her 2017 manifesto promise to ensure funding for TV licences for over-75s until 2022, is aware of this problem: she appointed a loneliness minister just last year. And this crisis is more than just heart-breaking, it’s potentially deadly; with scientists warning loneliness is as dangerous to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Studies suggest that those who are lonely are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression; that loneliness is worse for a person than obesity – …read more

Source:: New Statesman

      

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