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Leeds pensioners occupy BBC to save free TV licenses
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
"BBC, shame on you" was the chant as around 50 pensioners from across Yorkshire, including as far away as Scarborough, occupied the reception area of the Leeds BBC offices.
Their plan had been to hold a rally outside with speakers. But after being kept waiting half an hour for someone to accept a letter from the Yorkshire and Humber Pensioners Convention, then told no one was actually going to do that, they decided to go in to make sure management knew they were there and what they were campaigning for.
Speakers were careful to highlight that the proposal to scrap free TV licenses for over-75s was due to the government removing funding to the BBC for this a few years ago.
There was a strong presence of retired trade union members, especially from general union Unite. Gerry Lavery, secretary of Leeds Unite Community branch, commented: "Given the increased loneliness in society, it's crucial this remains a universal benefit for over-75s, and the government must take responsibility for funding it."
Dave, a Unite Community member from Leeds, told us: "We're here primarily because we don't want to see free TV licenses taken away from over-75s. But this could be followed by the abolition of other things. In the past there's been talk of removing the concessionary travel pass or the winter fuel allowance."
Socialist Party members in Yorkshire have been campaigning on this issue, linking the need to defend free TV licenses for over-75s with reversing the increasing commercialisation and outsourcing of the BBC. We fight for a publicly owned, fully funded and democratically controlled BBC.
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