BRITAIN: BBC to fund over-75s’ TV licences

#AceFinanceNews – BRITAIN:July.07: The BBC is to cover the cost of providing free television licences for over-75s, the government has confirmed.

Ministers said the move would be phased in from 2018-19. In return, rules on paying for catch-up services such as iPlayer might be introduced and the licence fee will rise with inflation.

Funding free licence fees for over-75s cost the government £608m in 2013-14 – about a fifth of the BBC’s budget.
The BBC said it was the “right deal… in difficult economic circumstances”.

BBC director general Tony Hall said: “Far from being a cut, the way this financial settlement is shaped gives us, effectively, flat licence fee income across the first five years of the next charter.”

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

Key points

■ The BBC to take responsibility for funding free TV licence fees for the over-75s
■ The move will be phased in over 2018-19, with sole responsibility from 2020-21
■ The government could allow the BBC to charge the licence fee to people who watch TV using the iPlayer
■ Decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee will be “carefully considered” by the government
■ Subject to charter renewal, the licence fee to rise in line with CPI inflation over the next charter period
■ BBC funding of the government’s broadband programme will be phased out by 2020-21

The current BBC charter – which sets out the corporation’s remit and how it is governed – is due for renewal at the end of 2016.
Analysis:

By Nick Higham, BBC News correspondent
At first sight today’s announcement looks like pretty bad news for the BBC.

The cost of licence fees for the over-75s is only set to rise as the number of households with someone over 75 increases.

Yet the BBC’s director general Lord Hall was positively upbeat, claiming the deal he’s done with the government is a good one which will leave the BBC, at the end of five years, no worse off and possibly slightly better off – though that’s in cash terms, not real terms.

Cue much head-scratching among analysts, trying to work out from the available numbers if the picture is really as rosy as the BBC maintains.

And significantly, perhaps, Lord Hall would not rule out possible cuts to services.

But there has also been forthright criticism of the way the deal was done.
Lord Hall and the chair of the BBC Trust, Rona Fairhead, were only told by the government a week ago that this was happening.

Lord Birt, himself a former BBC head, says the government had set “a very dangerous precedent” by doing a deal on BBC financing behind closed doors with no public consultation for the second time in five years – suggesting the BBC’s independence from government has been compromised.

  • £271.4m of the total used by the Government to fund S4C, the local TV scheme and broadband rollout.

In a statement to the Commons, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said the charter renewal process would ensure the BBC could “adapt to a changing media landscape”.

Mr Bryant called the announcement an “utter shambles” after the plans were revealed in a Sunday newspaper ahead of Wednesday’s Budget.

In an angry exchange in the Commons, Mr Bryant stressed the process must be “open and transparent”, adding it was “no way to run a whelk stall let alone the world’s most respected broadcaster”.

‘Modernise licence fee’

Mr Whittingdale said he was pleased “the BBC had agreed to play its part” in helping tackle the government’s “challenging fiscal position” while further reducing its “reliance on taxpayers”.

Lord Hall said there had been “intense negotiations” to ensure the BBC had “secured a strong deal for our audiences”.

“If anything, I believe it will put the BBC slightly up,” he said.

“Crucially, it gives us room for investment in the first two years of that charter. This will help us to manage the transition we all know is coming to an online world.”

In a letter to Mr Whittingdale, BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead said the Trust accepted the decision “although we cannot endorse the process by which it has been reached”.

“We are disappointed that [licence fee payers] have not been given any say in the major decisions about the BBC’s future funding,” she said.

“However, we accept that those decisions now set a clear financial framework, subject to the terms… for a charter review process that will focus on what the BBC provides in return for its funding. We will want to make sure the public are at the centre of that debate.”

Mr Whittingdale also confirmed plans to bring forward legislation to modernise the licence fee next year “to cover public service broadcast catch-up TV”.
He added the government would “carefully consider” decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee.

When asked if over 75s would be means-tested to determine whether an individual or household was eligible for the free licence, Mr Whittingdale replied: “The commitment made in the Conservative manifesto that all households with an over 75-year-old will be eligible to a free TV licence will be honoured throughout this Parliament.

“As requested by the BBC, they will take responsibility for this policy from thereon.”

Speaking on Radio 4, former BBC Trust chairman Diane Coyle said: “It’s the second time the government has forced a deal on the BBC.

“There has been no consultation with the public and it’s a major change in the BBC’s responsibilities. The public who pay for the BBC should have been consulted.”

Mr Whittingdale added the government, depending on the Royal Charter agreement, expected the licence fee to rise in line with consumer price index (CPI) inflation over the next charter period.

“I don’t think it will balance out in the long run,” said Ms Coyle.

“I welcome getting the inflation link back, but the number of people over 75 is going up all the time and it’s not clear to me in the long time it can avoid service closures to cover it.”

BBC to fund over-75s’ TV licences_84088947_84088946.jpgThe BBC will be required to cover the cost of providing free television licences for over-75s, the government confirms.

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LONDON: Chancellor Osborne says he has found 12 billion of welfare cuts

#AceFinanceNews – July.06: Chancellor Osborne says he has found 12 billion of welfare cuts
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/07/06/uk-britain-politics-osborne-idUKKCN0PF0AN20150706

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MARKETS: Stocks, euro staggered by Greece; China rescue in doubt

#AceMarketsNews – SYDNEY/TOKYO (Reuters) – July.06: Asian stocks hit a six-month trough and the euro stumbled on Monday after a Greek vote against austerity measures endangered its future in the single currency and raised the risk of a full-blown crisis in the euro zone.

A rush from risk took MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan down 2.8 percent in the steepest daily drop in two years.

Japan’s Nikkei shed 2.4 percent, while U.S. equity futures dropped 1.3 percent. Early signs were the major European bourses would open down at least 2 percent.

China’s stock market tried to buck the trend following a salvo of rapid-fire support measures from Beijing over the weekend.

Yet after an early surge stocks soon flagged and the CSI300 index of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen was up just 0.5 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index was flat having been up over 7 percent at one stage.

While the price action was whippy across Asia, dealers emphasised that markets were orderly with few signs of financial strain and many assuming the European Central Bank would step in with a pledge of extra liquidity at some point.

The Japanese government said it was ready to respond as needed in markets and was in close touch with other nations.

“A lot depends now on what the ECB does with liquidity support for the Greek banks,” said Antonin Jullier, head of equity trading strategy at Citi. “The ECB has the capacity to limit the spread of contagion.”

The euro was down 0.8 percent at $1.1027 but above an early low of $1.0967. It lost more ground to the safe-haven yen, reaching 134.76 yen from Friday’s 136.18.

The dollar faded modestly to 122.26 yen but its index was still up 0.3 percent at 96.394.

Demand for highly rated sovereign debt saw the U.S. 10-year Treasury yield fall 11 basis points to 2.28 percent.

Fed funds futures also rallied as investors wagered the endless uncertainty in Europe would make the Federal Reserve more wary of raising U.S. interest rates, or at least to tighten more gradually once it began.

In commodities, gold got a minor lift to $1,167.93 an ounce but Brent crude lost 75 cents to $59.57 a barrel.

The latest reports from Greece said around 61 percent of those voting in the referendum had backed the government and rejected the bailout conditions. [TOP/CEN]

Following the outcome, calls mounted in Berlin to cut Athens loose from the currency union, raising the risk of a full-blown crisis in the euro zone.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will meet in Paris on Monday afternoon as

the European Union’s grand single currency project faces the biggest challenge since its inception.

Stunned European leaders called a summit for Tuesday to discuss their next move as investors fear “Grexit” could encourage anti-euro sentiment in other countries.

The ECB, which holds a conference call on Monday morning, is likely to maintain emergency funding for Greek banks at its current restricted level, sources said.

Though Greek government officials have vociferously denied any plans to issue a parallel currency, some investors suspect Athens could have no choice in the matter.

(Additional reporting by Kelly Jemima in London; Editing by Dean Yates & Shri Navaratnam)

Stocks, euro staggered by Greece; China rescue in doubt

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