Speaking in Parliament, the MP for East Antrim pressed the Media Minister John Whittingdale on the corporation’s conduct. He claimed that many of his constituents were simply “fed up” with the BBC’s actions and were far from satisfied with the “political bias” displayed by the broadcaster. On August 1 controversial BBC TV licence fee changes will come into effect.
Millions of pensioners over the age of 75 will have to pay an annual fee of £157.50 if they want to watch TV.
Only those on Pension Credit will be exempt under the new scheme.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Wilson said: “Does the minister understand many of my constituents are fed up with the begging-bowl behaviour of the BBC, which seems to think its pocket has no bottom to it, and increasingly frustrated by the political bias and the reckless spending?”
He went on to question Mr Whittingdale on what action he would be prepared to take to protect elderly people from ending up in court over an unpaid TV licence fee.
He said: “Will he undertake, first, to ensure that no pensioner who can’t afford the compulsory levy will be criminalised as a result of non-payment, [and] in the longer run, will he look at how the BBC is funded so that we don’t have this compulsory tax on people who increasingly get their entertainment elsewhere anyway?”
The minister answered by saying he sympathised with Mr Wilson, but stopped short of addressing his concern about criminalisation.
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He also expressed “considerable sympathy” with Tory calls to reform how the BBC is funded.
But he said a reliance on Freeview does not allow such change just yet.
He said the way people watch television now means questions about the “sustainability” of the licence fee will be under consideration during the 2027 charter review process.
Opposition MPs criticised the Government for putting the cost of free TV licences for over-75s on the BBC.
Answering an urgent question in the Commons, Mr Whittingdale said: “As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a duty to represent all of the nation, both its youngest and oldest citizens, no matter where they live and I am aware that many people have expressed concerns about cuts to regional programming as well as the BBC’s recent announcement of staffing reductions.
“Let me be clear – both operational and editorial decisions are a matter for the BBC.
“It is an independent body and the Government rightly has no say in the day-to-day decisions it makes on programming, staffing or the administration of the licence fee.
“But as I have said, including during a recent adjournment debate, the Government believes that the BBC must represent all of Britain.
“We set clear targets for news and current affairs and the need to represent all parts of the UK in the charter as part of the BBC’s mission and public purposes.”