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BBC must do more for older people after TV licence fee change, government says

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The government has said the BBC must “do more to support older people” after the announcement that most over-75s will no longer get free TV licences.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said he was “very disappointed” that the corporation had reached the decision.

But Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said the government had “breathtaking gall to blame the BBC for this mess”.

The BBC said restricting free licences to over-75s who claim Pension Credit was “the fairest and best outcome”.

Around 3.7 million pensioners are expected to lose out on the entitlement when the change comes into force in June 2020.

The decision comes four years after the government announced the BBC would take over the responsibility for providing free licences for over-75s by 2020 as part of the licence fee settlement.

At the same time, the BBC was allowed to increase the licence fee and make it obligatory to have a TV licence to use iPlayer. On Tuesday, Mr Wright told the House of Commons that was “a fair deal for the BBC”.

  • The new scheme will cost the BBC around £250m a year by 2021/22, depending on the take-up
  • If the BBC continued to provide free TV licences to all over-75s, it would cost around £500m extra, the corporation said
  • The BBC said that’s equivalent to the cost of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5 Live and a number of local radio stations – so services like that would be at risk
  • By comparison, the total pay for on-air stars earning more than £150,000 per year was £148m in 2017/2018
  • The pay bill for senior managers and executives in the same year was £37.7m

Mr Wright also urged the corporation to “use its substantial licence fee income in an appropriate way”, which included showing “restraint on salaries for senior staff”.

He added: “I firmly believe that the BBC can and should do more to support older people. And I’m now looking to them to make clear exactly how they will do that.”

Pensioner watching TV

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TV licence

  • £745mEstimated cost to the BBC of current scheme by 2021/22

  • £250mEstimated cost of new scheme depending on take-up

  • 190,000people consulted on the change

  • 52%in favour of reforming or abolishing free licence scheme

Maintaining free TV licences for those pensioners was part of the Conservative Party manifesto at the 2017 general election.

Conservative Party leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom called for a reversal of the plan, describing the decision as “unacceptable”.

She said: “It’s a commitment in the Conservatives’ manifesto and we need to find a way to reverse that.”

Her leadership rival Esther McVey said she was “ashamed” of the BBC, which had “forgotten the public they are supposed to serve”.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson told the House of Commons that voters who read the manifesto pledge “have been betrayed and it’s shameful”.

He continued: “The government had the breathtaking gall to blame the BBC for this mess, but passing the buck won’t work.

“The BBC is not the DWP [Department for Work and Pensions]. Public broadcasters should never be responsible for social policy.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said “providing over-75s with free TV licences is not too much to ask”.

Conservative MP Ed Vaizey, who was culture minister when the licence fee settlement was made, told MPs the government should “either take back this policy or support the BBC changes”.

He said: “I was in the DCMS [Department for Culture, Media and Sport] when this policy was imposed on the BBC by the Treasury to meet its £12bn welfare target, a target which I doubt we have met and has long been forgotten.”

He added: “It [the government] shouldn’t use weasel words that undermine the changes the BBC has brought about.”

Under the new rules, only low-income households where one person receives the Pension Credit benefit will still be eligible for a free licence.

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Media captionDavid Clementi on the BBC’s decision to scrap blanket free licences for over 75s

BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said it had been a “very difficult decision” but this was the “the fairest and best outcome”.

Funding free TV licences for all over-75s would have resulted in “unprecedented closures”, the BBC said.

On Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “very disappointed” with the BBC’s decision.

Almost 150,000 people have signed a petition set up by the Age UK charity, which is calling for the government to take back responsibility for funding free TV licences.

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Obituary: Christo Javacheff, the artist who wrapped the world

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Christo JavacheffImage copyright
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Once a penniless painter on the boulevards of Paris, nobody did art like Christo.

The charismatic Eastern European refugee became world famous for monumental installations, covering huge objects in miles of fabric and rope. Every project was preposterous in concept, taking decades to design, finance and deliver.

He wrapped enormous buildings, avenues of trees, entire coastlines and island chains. Each one cost millions with official permission almost impossible to get. Yet, when finally completed, they were gone again in a matter of weeks.

It was a life of herculean tasks. His determination to see them through never dimmed.

  • Christo, artist who wrapped landmarks, dies at 84

Even in his eighties, he was working on a scheme to rival the pharaohs. A vast stairway to heaven in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, made from 410,000 brightly coloured oil barrels. A final, grand statement larger than the Great Pyramid itself.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Workers construct The Mastaba, an installation made of plastic barrels, on the Serpentine in London in 2018

Christo Vladimirov Javacheff was born on 13 June 1935 in Gabrovo, a small town in the Bulgarian mountains.

His father Ivan was a chemist who ran a factory making fabrics. His mother, Tzeta Dimitrova, a political activist. Their social circle was one of artists and intellectuals, the household a swirl of radical ideas questioning the boundaries of contemporary culture.

A bohemian childhood, where artistic creativity was encouraged from the start, was constantly disrupted by war. As a boy, Christo saw his country first brutally uprooted; first by the Nazis and then the Russians. Politics, as well as art, shaped his early years.

In 1952, he attended the Art Academy in Sofia. There he was expected to join the Communist Youth and produce realistic, anti-capitalist work glorifying the values of socialism. He turned out the kind of populist propaganda pieces the system demanded. But he found it suffocating.

“The work of art,” he would say, “is a scream of freedom.”

Image copyright
KARL MATHIS

Image caption

Christo’s wife, Jeanne-Claude, was his long time creative muse and business partner

He moved to Prague, got into theatre design and immersed himself in the works of great artists; Miro, Matisse, Kandinsky. When the Hungarian revolution broke out, he saw students and intellectuals like himself dealt with ruthlessly. So he fled.

Bribing a railway worker, he hid on a train taking medicine to Austria. He made it to Vienna but found himself officially stateless – dirt poor and unable to speak the language in a Europe awash with refugees.

Jeanne-Claude

A few years later, he washed up in Paris. He scraped a living painting portraits on the street, something he likened to prostitution. A woman saw an example at the hairdressers and liked it, inviting the struggling artist to her chateaux to paint a picture of her.

The woman’s daughter was flame-haired Jeanne-Claude. She would become Christo’s wife, his muse, his voice and life-long business partner and creative soul mate.

“Mother’s brought home another stray,” she thought at the time. Fortunately, that first impression didn’t last.

He showed her his ‘real work’. In 1920, Man Ray had wrapped a sewing machine with a blanket, appropriating an everyday object and making it art. Profoundly influenced, Christo’s garret was stuffed floor-to-ceiling with similar pieces. “My God”, she recalled thinking. “This guy is crazy!”

She got pregnant and married a more suitable man but walked out after three weeks. She and Christo were never apart again. Jeanne-Claude’s father, a four-star general in the French army, didn’t speak to her for years.

Art on an epic scale

What followed was an extraordinary artistic collaboration lasting more than 50 years. At first, their work was credited to Christo alone, feeling that it was easier for one person’s name to become established. Only latterly did Jeanne-Claude’s contribution get the equal billing it deserved.

Image copyright
Fairfax Media

Image caption

Little Bay, south of Sydney – in 1969, the artists wrapped more than 2km of the Australian coastline

She encouraged him away from small objects in favour of the monumental. In 1962, reacting to the building of the Berlin Wall, they blocked off the Rue Visconti in Paris with a pile of oil drums some 4m high. They begged the police to let it stand for a while but within hours it had gone.

They moved to New York, living in an illegal squat as undocumented migrants. He began producing the sketches and project plans they sold to finance their creations. She took on the logistics and gathered the necessary permissions.

In 1969, they wrapped more than 2km of coastline in Little Bay, Australia. In places, the cliffs soared to more than 26m high. It took an hour to walk from one end of the installation to the other.

Next, they created a fabric fence in California – nearly 40km long and 6m high. Nine lawyers were hired to persuade dozens of local farmers to give their blessing.

Image copyright
tim page

Image caption

“Running Fence”, California – the artists built a continuous fabric barrier more than 24 miles long

In 1983, the couple surrounded 11 islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay with more than 600,000 square metres of bright pink polypropylene. The material was individually cut to fit each shoreline. Four hundred people were needed to put everything into place.

Walkways were sewn into the fabric for the public. The ‘exhibit’ was up for just two weeks, then all 11km of it was taken down.

The absence of meaning

Christo and Jeanne-Claude wanted their works to be joyful and beautiful, encouraging the observer to see the familiar anew. But they refused to give these vast creations any ‘meaning’ past an immediate aesthetic impact.

The direct impact on the environment was controversial. The couple were careful to recycle everything they used. And none of it was built to last.

Its temporary nature was a key part of the concept. Like the rainbow, its momentary existence was what made it all so wonderful.

“They all go away when they’re finished,” Christo once said of his creations. “Only the preparatory drawings and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character. I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain.”

Up to a point, perhaps. The site-specific creations might have been designed with a fleeting wow factor in mind, but as a body of work they spoke to important themes – impact on the environment, 20th Century human conflict, and the need for perseverance in defence of freedom of expression.

Image copyright
Sipa Press/REX/Shutterstock

Image caption

Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped the Reichstag building in Berlin in 1995

In 1984, they wrapped the Pont Neuf in Paris. It took them nine years to persuade the mayor, Jacques Chirac, to let them do it. Forty thousand metres of golden sandstone fabric was used, chosen to imitate colour of the pavements at sunset.

Next was a $26m project to erect thousands of huge umbrellas – blue ones in Japan, yellow ones in southern California. They were paid for, as always, by the sale of Christo’s drawings. They never accepted sponsorship, which would have imposed unacceptable limitations on their art. Three million came to look and picnic in the shade.

Years of lobbying came to fruition in 1995, when the German parliament allowed them to spread 100,000m of fireproof material around the Reichstag. All tied down with 15km of rope.

The most difficult was the one closest to home. Its title, The Gates, Central Park, New York 1979-2005, referred to the years it had taken them to persuade the city to let them do it.

Image copyright
Mario Tama

Image caption

The Gates in New York’s Central Park featured 7,500 frames with orange-tinted fabric

In February 2005, more than 7,000 gates made from saffron coloured fabric were finally placed along the paths that wind through the Big Apple’s green lung. Together, they formed a fluttering trail 37km long. Five million came to be amazed. A week later, everything was packed away.

Legacy

Jeanne-Claude died in 2009 after complications following a brain aneurysm. For years she had been seen as little more than Christo’s business partner and PR manager. In reality, they were two sides of the same creative coin, travelling in different planes so that, if one died, their artistic vision would survive.

Without her, Christo pushed on with their unfinished projects. In 2016, he installed a series of walkways on Lake Iseo near Brescia, Italy. Visitors could walk for more than 3km, just above the calm surface of the waters, from the mainland to the islands of Monte Isola and San Pedro.

Image copyright
FILIPPO VENEZIA

Image caption

The Floating Piers on Lake Iseo, Italy – spectators could walk between the mainland and two small islands

“The most beautiful part,” he said, “is about the people walking nowhere. It’s not like going to the shop, not going to see your friends. It’s really going nowhere.”

Despite his claim his work was nothing more than the impact of the aesthetic on the human senses, Christo will be remembered for a body of work that pushed artistic boundaries.

He challenged the idea that sculpture has be something fixed and permanent. He deliberately blurred the line between art and its natural environment. And he did it on a truly epic scale.

His death means we will never see all his visions come to reality. There were plenty that never made it past the drawing board. Even decades of lobbying never let him wrap some of the skyscrapers in New York.

He cancelled a plan to cover the Colorado River, despite spending $14m getting permission, in protest at the election of Donald Trump.

A plan to wrap the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is still set to go ahead next year, but who knows if his scheme in the desert will ever make it from design stage to reality in his absence? It is intended to be 500ft high, with a base the size of the piazza at St Peter’s in Rome.

And this one, the only one of all his projects, was designed to be permanent. A lasting tribute to an extraordinary creative partnership whose every scheme was more innovative, ambitious and dauntingly complicated than the last.



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KSI: ‘I wanted to make my parents proud through YouTube’

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KSI on Top Gear

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KSI appeared on Top Gear in January

YouTuber KSI has said his parents were initially disappointed with his decision not to go to university.

The 26-year-old explained his mum and dad had put their savings into sending him to private school in the hope he would become a lawyer or doctor.

Speaking to Louis Theroux on Radio 4’s Grounded podcast, KSI said he “didn’t want to let his parents down”.

“But eventually I decided, ‘you know what, screw it. I’m going to make them proud through the whole YouTube.’

“As long as I can get rid of all their debts and make their lives comfortable, that’s all that matters.”

KSI joined YouTube in 2009 and initially uploaded videos of himself playing games such as Fifa.

He grew his following over several years and is now one of the site’s most popular personalities, with 21 million subscribers.

In recent years, he has broken into the UK top 10 with his own rap singles and also taken part in boxing matches with other YouTubers such as Logan Paul.

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Media captionYouTuber KSI told BBC Radio 5 Live that a potential fight with Jake Paul needs to happen.

KSI said he struggled “for a couple of years” with the anguish his parents felt about his decision not to go to university.

“My parents saved up, worked hard to put us in private school and to make us go into university to be a lawyer or doctor, for me to just turn my back on them and just go, ‘no I want to do this’.”

YouTube ‘goldmine’

Speaking on an episode of Grounded released on Monday, KSI said his mum “just screamed” after he got a disappointing A-level result.

“I’ve never heard her scream so loud and she was just throwing glasses everywhere. My dad was just disappointed, my dad just looked on the ground and he just didn’t know what to say or do. It was quite hard, it just crushed me.

“So I said that I would try it again but my campus they didn’t allow it, so they just kicked me out. My parents decided the next best thing was an international baccalaureate, that I should try that.”

The international baccalaureate diploma is a two-year educational programme aimed at 16-to-19-year-olds, which provides a qualification to help with entry into higher education and is recognised by many universities.

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Media captionKSI says he was “baffled” at his boxing match against fellow YouTuber Logan Paul ending in a draw

KSI did that for 18 months but said a key turning point was when he found out his YouTube earnings meant he was making more money than one of his college lecturers.

“I remember I asked a teacher, this is how I made this month, it was about £1,500 and I remember him telling me ‘that’s more than I make’.

“I looked at it and I thought, that’s it, YouTube is the one, it is the goldmine. I need to push and push because I know I can become something and make my parents proud.”

Asked by Theroux if reports that he is now worth around £16 million are true, KSI said: “I guess, I am wealthy yes. I’ve been doing YouTube for 10-plus years, I had a lot of money coming from different angles, in different areas so it makes sense for me to be worth eight figures yeah.”

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Cinema signs become a creative canvas in pandemic times

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Normally a space for displaying film times, cinema signs have seen a wave of creativity in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic.

Witty customised signage has appeared reflecting the cinema owners love of films, their humour and concerns.

Talking Movies’ Tom Brook reports.

Talking Movies can be seen on BBC World News



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