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Young tune out as free licences for elderly cost BBC £200m

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The BBC is using £200m of licence fee payers' money to subsidise the cost of free viewing for the over-75s.

The disclosure, in the corporation's plan for 2018.19, coincides with evidence that adults aged 16-34 are watching only half as much BBC TV as they did in 2010. A third of young adults do not watch the BBC even for three minutes a week. Other age groups, up to 54-year-olds, have reduced viewing by at least a third.

The raid on licence fee income to subsidise the elderly risks further depleting programme budgets just as US tech giants, including Netflix and Amazon, target British audiences.

The subsidy is set to rise to near £700m in 2020, almost a fifth of the BBC's licence fee income, as it takes more responsibility for the perk from the government.

The corporation was warned this weekend that it faces a row about fairness between the generations.

Angus Hanton, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, said: "Young people are fed up with paying to subsidise wealthier, older generations. These free TV licences are an outdated anomaly.

"The BBC should limit them, perhaps just to those who qualify for pension credit."

The BBC pointed out that it could change the policy only in 2020, when parliament gives it the power to decide whether to trim the generosity of the scheme.

Since 2010, when the licence fee was frozen for six years, funding for services for UK audiences has fallen by 18% in real terms while ITV's income has grown by 30% and that of Sky by 90%. BBC Drama spent £97m last year to make 85 hours of programmes, the same as Netflix spent on two series of The Crown.

The BBC has already declared that 16-34s spend similar amounts of time with BBC1, ITV and Netflix: about, two hours a week for each. The 16-24 age group spend more time with Netflix than all of BBC TV, including iPlayer.

A new analysis for The Sunday Times of audience figures from BARB, the official ratings body, shows ,1 the erosion of the BBC's audience among all age groups up to 54. Among children age 4-15, there was 47.5% drop in hours viewed from the first half of 2010 compared with the first half of 2018. The fall among adults aged 16-34 was 50.4% and for people age 35-54 it was 33%.

By contrast, the BBC hours viewed by adults aged 55 and over rose 2.2%, for those age 65 and older it was 13% and 'for the over 75s it was a remarkable 46.5%. The rise of viewing by the over-75s was driven by the greater number of people living longer.

The numbers fail to capture viewing of BBC iPlayer on smartphones and tablets and on platforms such as YouTube, typically used by younger viewers.

Channel controllers face a dilemma over whether to schedule programmes that appeal to ageing viewers or chase younger viewers and risk a fall in ratings. The BBC said Lord Hall, the director-general, planned to "reinvent the BBC for a new generation".


Caption: The BBC hopes to spark youngsters' interest when Jodie Whittaker becomes Doctor Who

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  • APA 6th ed.: Hellen, Nicholas (2018-07-22). Young tune out as free licences for elderly cost BBC £200m. The Sunday Times .
  • MLA 7th ed.: Hellen, Nicholas. "Young tune out as free licences for elderly cost BBC £200m." The Sunday Times [add city] 2018-07-22. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Hellen, Nicholas. "Young tune out as free licences for elderly cost BBC £200m." The Sunday Times, edition, sec., 2018-07-22
  • Turabian: Hellen, Nicholas. "Young tune out as free licences for elderly cost BBC £200m." The Sunday Times, 2018-07-22, section, edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Young tune out as free licences for elderly cost BBC £200m | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Young_tune_out_as_free_licences_for_elderly_cost_BBC_%C2%A3200m | work=The Sunday Times | pages= | date=2018-07-22 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=25 August 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Young tune out as free licences for elderly cost BBC £200m | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Young_tune_out_as_free_licences_for_elderly_cost_BBC_%C2%A3200m | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=25 August 2019}}</ref>