Former BBC host Susanna Reid attacks corporation for big free TV licence ‘mistake’July 3, 2019
The former BBC host claimed the company had committed its “biggest mistake” when their executive board had agreed to pay for over-75s licence fees. The BBC last month confirmed millions of OAPs would lose their free access to their services in 2020 to avoid cutbacks and channel closures. But Susanna Reid slammed the decision after the BBC published the latest wage list for their top-earning stars: “What they the BBC promised to do was to take over the responsibility for it.
“That was the mistake because unless you’re going to continue to provide those free TV licences for over 75s they shouldn’t have agreed to it.”
Former Chancellor George Osborne struck a deal with the BBC granting the company permission to raise licence fee if they agreed to cover the cost for over-75s. The licence fee has since been raised twice.
Ms Reid continued: “This was in the manifesto. It was a key pensioner benefit. So this is equally a Conservative Party and Government responsibility with the BBC.
“The BBC is in a position where the stars are being blamed for a mistake made years ago.”
But despite the BBC claiming the decision to axe free licence fees for the over-75s had been made to avoid having to make cutbacks across the company, the latest BBC wage list showed salaries remained sky-high for some of the BBC’s top stars.
BBC star Gary Lineker came under fire after it was revealed the presenter had earned £1.75million for hosting Match of the Day last year. Other top-earners such as Graham Norton and Claudia Winkleman were met with criticism over their salary – £615,000 and £375,000.
But Ms Reid’s co-host Piers Morgan defended “good mate” Gary Lineker insisting the public should not “blame the BBC stars, blame the BBC.”
Mr Morgan said: “If I were Gary Lineker, I’d come out and whack this. I would, I’d call their bluff.
“He fights for every other underdog on Twitter – he’s a good mate of mine, I completely defend him on this. I don’t think he is to blame.”
He continued: “If I were Gary Lineker I would come out on Twitter this morning and I would attack the decision to take the TV licences away from pensioners.
“It would be a very brave thing to do and he would earn himself a lot of favour of people. He’s just getting killed for no fault of his own.”
BBC director general Tony Hall confirmed the total talent bill had risen by £10million, however, he argued that it was a smaller proportion of total programming costs.
He wrote in a blog: “They would earn significantly more elsewhere – and recent departures to commercial rivals show this argument isn’t hollow. The simple truth is we have spent more than ever on content, but the amount we have spent proportionally on talent has come down.
The latest BBC wage list also revealed departed Radio 2 host Chris Evans, 53, was paid up to £1.25million for the year to March, Graham Norton, 56, received up to £614,999, newscaster Huw Edwards, 57, got up to £494,999 while Radio 2 host Steve Wright, 64, was paid £469,999.
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The top-earning women were Mr Evans’s replacement Zoe Ball, 48, and Strictly host Claudia Winkleman, 47, both on up to £374,999. BBC Radio 2 host Vanessa Feltz, 57, was paid up to £359,999.
The Government has previously said it was “very disappointed” with the BBC’s decision to axe free TV licences for over-75s.
A spokesman said: “We’ve been clear we want, and expect, the BBC to continue this concession.”
Under new rules drawn up by BBC bosses, only low-income households where one person receives Pension Credit will be eligible for a free TV licence.
The rest – more than two million households – will have to stump up the annual charge.
Harry Fone, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “You’d think the BBC would have shown more respect to taxpayers by cutting back on unnecessary spending.
“How can it justify giving so many sky-high salaries that most licence fee-payers can only dream of when whacking up charges on older people?”
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