BBC licence fee 'has many flaws' says John Whittingdale
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The corporation has faced an onslaught of backlash after putting out a notice to firms for them to bid to win the huge contract. Up to £42million will be spent over the next four years on “data collection and processing and brand tracking studies”, while a further £7million will go on research sampling “harder-to reach, niche and diverse audiences”.
The cost has been blasted by critics as a waste of licence-fee payers’ money, with some calling on the money to be used to help restore free TV licence fees for over-75s.
The corporation scrapped the perk in 2021, despite pledging to take over responsibility for covering the cost in 2016.
BBC executives said by only making the licence fee free for those receiving pension benefit the broadcaster would make a £500million a year saving.
But with the broadcaster accused of going on a spending spree during a cost of living crisis, it has been told the money spent on its new £50million research project should go towards easing the burden on older viewers.
Dennis Reed, director at Silver Voices which campaigns on issues impacting over 60s, told Express.co.uk: “It’s a significant amount of money, which during the cost of living crisis doesn’t appear to be the priority.
“The priority surely should be to support those who can’t afford to pay the licence fee in the current climate.
“£50million represents thousands of older people who would benefit from this being used to help them in their predicament.”
He added: “It is a rather sick set of priorities that the BBC is prepared to spend £50million basically on a marketing exercise rather than putting that money to support those in real difficulty during the cost of living crisis.”
Over-75s are forced to fork out £159 a year in order to watch television.
It means the £50million marketing budget could cover the cost of some 314,465 fees.
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Julian Knight, chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee of MPs, told the Daily Mail the “enorous sum of money” could go a long way to helping cover the cost of pensioners’ free TV permits.
He said: “It does seem to be that they’re giving almost a weapon to their opponents by spending such an enormous sum of money on finding out things which frankly they should be able to find out a lot cheaper than this.
“It’s an awful lot of licence fees if you think about it.
“It staggers me that they’re looking at spending that sort of money at a time like this.”
The BBC has not explained why such a large amount of money was necessary for the marketing project.
However, it said £50million was the upper limit and it may cost less.
A BBC spokesman said: “Audiences are at the heart of everything we do and our charter requires us to assess their views and interests, so everyone gets best value from the BBC.
“Over 95 percent of our spending goes on content and its delivery.”
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