Wednesday, February 12, 2020

I remember it well

Sir David Clementi's 20-odd minute speech to BBC staff at MediaCityUK may be over - so this isn't checked against delivery. Here's a fairly punchy section about the current Government's False Memory Syndrome about free licence fees for the Over-75s.

As you know, in 2015 the Government decided to stop funding free TV licences for the over-75s. 
The Government and the BBC agreed that the Corporation would consult openly and then decide what to do; that we would take over the responsibility both for determining the policy for over-75s, and for funding that policy.

There was no agreement, as is often claimed, that the BBC would simply copy the Government’s concession.

Both Tony Hall, the Director-General, and John Whittingdale, the then Secretary of State, are on the record that, at the time the 2015 Agreement was reached, reform of the current concession was a
possible outcome. 

I am quite used in life to occasions where two parties to an agreement – a few years later – have a rather different view of what was agreed. 

But this is the only occasion that I can recall where both parties to an agreement, in this case the BBC and the then Government, speak with total accord. Meanwhile, a whole raft of observers, politicians, commentators and journalists, who were nowhere near the 2015 Agreement at the time but would like to put blame on the BBC, keep insisting that something else was agreed – and that the BBC has not honoured this “something else”.

The Agreement, including the need to consult, was written into an Act of Parliament, so the notion that the BBC isn’t keeping to its commitment is plain wrong. We have honoured in full both the letter
and the spirit of the 2015 Agreement.

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