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From: The Socialist issue 1095, 15 July 2020: Fight for safety - stop the jobs massacre

Search site for keywords: BBC - TV - Pensioners

Defend free TV licences for pensioners!

The licence fee should be replaced by funding from general, progressive taxation

The licence fee should be replaced by funding from general, progressive taxation   (Click to enlarge)

Keith Dickinson, West London Socialist Party

The BBC has announced it will be knocking on pensioners' doors to collect 157.50 from 1 August, in pursuance of this Tory government's policy of withdrawing free TV licences for over-75s.

Most pensioners have worked all our lives creating the wealth now in the pockets of the billionaires who exploit the economy from their luxury yachts in some sunny climate. Tens of thousands of us have died in the pandemic, and millions are locked down fearing for our lives, with only the TV to give us an inkling of what's going on in the world outside.

It is clear that pensioners are pawns in this government's vicious campaign. Free licences for over-75s were introduced in 1999, with the government to pay the bill.

In 2015, Tory chancellor George Osborne passed responsibility for the costs onto the BBC from 2018. The corporation's bosses accepted this, providing they could increase everyone's licence fees in line with inflation from 2020.

Last year, the BBC announced the concession would be scrapped, except for those receiving pension credit benefits. Currently, 600,000 of those entitled don't claim. And BBC director of policy Clare Sumner immediately caused uproar, stating that "outreach" workers from infamous outsourcer Capita would visit pensioners at home to ensure we pay up!

This is part of the Tories' ideological determination to discredit public broadcasting - despite the BBC's value to capitalism as a state propaganda machine, proven once again during the coronavirus outbreak. At the same time, they want to whip the BBC even further to the right, and commercialise more of its profitable sections for their money-grubbing friends.

The Tories are even prepared to set a precedent of decriminalising non-payment of what is, in effect, a regressive tax. According to 'Culture Secretary' Oliver Dowden, they fear "it will be an own goal of epic proportions to start hauling people over 75 in front of the courts."

If the Tories themselves fear this issue blowing up, where are the trade union and Labour leaders? They should demand no fees for pensioners as a minimum. Really we need to end the licence fee for all, to be replaced with funding from general taxation - and genuine democratic control of the media.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

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