The concession will be restricted to those who are entitled to receive Pension Credit from June next year. But the BBC’s stance comes as it declared its presenter bill has gone up almost £11million in 12 months. Match of the Day host Gary Lineker is their highest earner on £1.75million. The taxpayer-funded corporation insisted it was “fair” to make the elderly cough up the licence fee money each year because it meant more cash to make programmes like Line of Duty, Bodyguard and Strictly Come Dancing. But writing in today’s Daily Express, senior Tory MP Robert Halfon called the BBC’s decisionmaking “despicable”. Accounts show Lineker, 58, has retained his place as the corporation’s highest-paid star.
He presents football highlights on Saturday nights, as well as the annual BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards and the World Cup every four years.
Yesterday, BBC director-general Tony Hall defended his top-paid star’s salary, saying he represented value for money and “does an excellent job”.
Lineker’s fellow Match of the Day colleagues were also among the most handsomely remunerated, with Alan Shearer, 48, picking up as much as £444,999 for weekly punditry stints.
Jermaine Jenas, 36, received up to £214,999 while Ian Wright, 55, was paid £209,999.
In contrast, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, 42, was paid up to £254,999; Mary Berry, 84, received a fee of up to £199,999 while Clare Balding, 48, was paid up to £179,999.
Documents 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.
The top-earning women were Evans’s replacement Zoe Ball, 48, and Strictly host Claudia Winkleman, 47, both on up to £374,999.
Vanessa Feltz, 57, was paid up to £359,999.
Yesterday, BBC top brass tried to blame the Government for the licence fee shambles.
Lord Hall, below, told how he sympathised with the older people who will miss out on a free TV licence but said it was “wrong” to suggest the corporation was “doing something we shouldn’t be doing”.
“We have it in writing from the Government and indeed by law that we should consult and decide what is best from 2020 onwards,” he said.
“This was a really hard decision, balancing, on the one hand, the obvious desire to do right by those over 75 versus on the other to do right by those who are paying the licence fee and don’t want to see their services cut.
“We have made a decision which we think is fair and have decided the fairest way is effectively means testing. Now if [the Government] want to come back and say, ‘We’ll pay you for the over-75s concessions, we got it wrong’, then fine.
“I can’t see that happening, but we are open to conversations.”
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.
The Daily Express has been crusading for the corporation to think again, delivering more than 50,000 letters from angry readers to the BBC headquarters in London.
Almost one million more have signed a series of online petitions calling for free licences to be saved.
Many supporters of our campaign have expressed their anger in light of the BBC stars’ salaries being revealed.
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?”
Former BBC journalist Dame Esther Rantzen, 79, also told how the revelations about salaries don’t “tell the whole story”.
She said: “A lot of very talented people are paid through production companies or BBC studios so their salaries are even higher.
“It’s very bad indeed for the BBC’s reputation as a public service broadcaster.”
BBC chairman Sir David Clementi yesterday said: “Even if we employed no stars paid more than £150,000 a year, that would save around £20million – a fraction of the £745million a year we would need if we extended the concession to all.”
But Caroline Abrahams, the charity director of Age UK, said: “Older people are fed up with being stuck in the war of words between the Government and the BBC.
“They just want to carry on enjoying their TV without worrying how to pay for it.
“Unless the Government takes back responsibility for funding free licences, a lot of our oldest are going to lose out.”
Three women break into the Top 10 earners
Three female presenters have appeared in the top 10 list of the BBC’s highest-earning stars for the first time.
The corporation said deals handed to Strictly co-host Claudia Winkleman, Radio 2 presenter Zoe Ball and broadcaster Vanessa Feltz prove progress was being made to close its gender pay gap.
Two years ago, the BBC was criticised after disclosing that 75 percent of its staff paid more than £150,000 a year were men.
Yesterday director-general Lord Hall said it had “turned the corner” on gender pay.
He said: “When we first published the figures for top talent there was a 75/25 split.
“The projection for 2019/20 is 55/45. This is a significant change. The task is not complete but we are well on our way.”
Despite the emergence of Winkleman, 47, Ball, 48, and Feltz, 57, in the top 10, annual accounts show the list is still dominated by middle-aged men.
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker was the top earner last year, on £1.75million.
Former Radio 2 breakfast host Chris Evans, 53, earned up to £1.25million while chat show host Graham Norton received up to £614,999.
Ball and Winkleman both earned up to £374,999 and Feltz up to £359,999.
Also in the top 10 were newscaster Huw Edwards, 57, (up to £494,999), Radio 2 DJ Steve Wright, 64, (up to £469,999), football pundit Alan Shearer, 48, (£444,999) and political interviewer Andrew Marr, 59, (£394,999.
Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey, 55, who campaigns for equal pay at the BBC, congratulated the three female stars but said it would be “nice” if the list was a 50/50 split.
Comment by Robert Halfon
The BBC’s decision to scrap blanket free TV licences for over-75s is despicable.
More than 3.75 million households will be affected, slapped with a hefty £154.50-a-year bill to watch their favourite programmes.
This narrow-minded decision is rooted in the assumption that pensioners not in receipt of Pension Credit – and they may have missed the threshold to claim by just a few pounds – are wealthy enough to suddenly fork out over £150 a year.
Not an insignificant sum for many people struggling with the cost of living.
What’s more, figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show as many as 1.3 million households entitled to Pension Credit do not currently claim it.
The most vulnerable, the ones we should be helping the most, may not even know about the benefit, or have their affairs in order to be able to claim it.
I believe the BBC are dishonouring their commitments.
In 2015, it was agreed that they would take over the funding of free TV licences for over-75s from the Government – and they welcomed this arrangement.
At that time, when the fee settlement was negotiated, BBC director-general Tony Hall said: “The Government’s decision has been more than matched by the deal coming back to the BBC.”
Now the BBC are arguing that they cannot afford to continue covering the cost for every over-75 household.
But it all seems rather disingenuous.
Presenters like Gary Lineker are being paid salaries of more than £1.75million and BBC executives earn more than the Prime Minister – all courtesy of pensioners who have paid taxes and TV licences all their lives.
The BBC’s annual report this year shows the total number of TV personalities earning more than £150,000 has reached 75 – 11 more than last year – and the total “talent bill” has risen £11million to £159million.
There is also an extraordinary amount of waste in the system.
We’ve witnessed the failure of a £100million digital production initiative in 2013 and just recently, we learned completion of the new EastEnders set is five years late and £27million over budget.
In 2011, I presented a Bill in Parliament arguing TV licence fee payers should have a vote as to how their money is being spent by the BBC.
Let’s allow the people to decide.
It is high time that our BBC is democratised.
• The Rt. Hon. Robert Halfon is Conservative MP for Harlow.
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