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TV Licences: Up to 3.7 million over-75s to pay licence fee

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Up to 3.7 million pensioners who previously received a free TV licence will now have to pay for it.

The BBC will scrap blanket free licences for over-75s, but those households with one person who receives pension credit will still be eligible.

The BBC said “fairness” was at the heart of the ruling, which comes into force in June 2020.

It follows a consultation with 190,000 people, of which 52% were in favour of reforming or abolishing free licences.

According to the BBC, around 900,000 households are claiming pension credit, which is a non-taxable weekly top up for pensioners based on a person’s income.

The number of households which could be eligible to apply for pension credit could number 1.5 million by 2020.

The BBC Board said it was the “fairest option to help the poorest pensioners”.

BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said it had been a “very difficult decision”.

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

“We think it’s fair to those over 75 but also to all our audiences for whom there was no appetite for the level of cuts that would have been necessary if the concession had been extended,” he added.

“There are people for whom this will be unwelcome news, who have not paid until now but will do so.

“We know we have a loyal audience over the age of 75 and we think many of them will understand the difficult position we are in.”

Analysis by David Sillito, media correspondent

Free licences were given to the over-75s as part of a Labour government programme to reduce pensioner poverty. Fifteen years later that government funding was cut by the Conservatives.

Ever since then, the BBC has been pondering if it can afford to take on the bill. It’s a cost that’s rising every year as the number of pensioners continues to grow. In 2020 it’s estimated there will be around 4.6 million households eligible for the over-75s scheme.

This then is a compromise; around a third of the cost will be borne by the BBC and two thirds passed on to ‘wealthier’ pensioners. The elderly are by far the biggest consumers of the BBC’s output, the average age of BBC TV’s audience is now over 62, the question is how far younger licence fee payers should subsidise these older viewers.

As consumption of traditional TV by younger viewers continues to drop there could well be questions about why they are being expected to pay for a service that the heaviest users get for free.

The Department of Culture Media and Sport Committee said: “The ending of historically free TV licences for all those over 75, regardless of income, will mark a significant departure for the BBC and nearly four million pensioners who don’t pay for it.

“However, we know that the total cost to the BBC of picking up the provision of free licences was estimated at £725 million in the coming years, and growing.”

Chairman Damian Collins said: “The likely bill for paying for licences for those who receive pension credit is put at around £250 million which is still a considerable sum,” adding MPs would monitor “the impact this cost will have on the BBC’s future and its programming.”

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Free licences were first introduced by then-Culture Secretary Chris Smith in 2000 at the same time as half-price licences for the visually impaired.

In 2015, the government announced the BBC would take over the cost of providing free licences for over-75s by 2020 as part of the fee settlement.

The cost was expected to total £745 million – a fifth of the BBC’s current budget by 2021/22.

The new scheme will cost the BBC around £250 million by 2021/22 depending on the take-up.

Following the announcement, TV Licensing is advising customers receiving a free licence that they need not take any immediate action.

Over the course of the next month, TV Licensing will be writing to everyone who currently has a free over-75 licence to let them know about the new scheme and make clear that they will remain fully covered until 31 May 2020.

A free telephone information line will also be launched this month where older customers and their relatives can access information on the new policy and a new “pay as you go” payment scheme will be launched from June 2020 which will let people spread the cost of the licence in fortnightly or monthly payments.

Condemning the new scheme, Caroline Abrahams from Age UK said: “One thing we’ve noticed through the consultation is how much older people value it, it might be a surprise to the BBC how important the TV is. One in four over-65s say this is their main form of companionship.”

The BBC’s consultation was announced in November last year. Nearly half of respondents (48%) said they were in favour of continuing concessions to over-75s.

Thirty-seven percent were in favour of reforming the current rules with 15% in favour of scrapping concessions of over-75s.



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How Dan Aykroyd went from battling spirits to selling them

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Dan Aykroyd

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Dan Aykroyd has been a professional actor for more than 45 years

The BBC’s weekly The Boss series profiles different business leaders from around the world. This week we speak to Canadian actor and vodka entrepreneur Dan Aykroyd.

As a much-loved Hollywood star, it is fair to say that a great many movie fans would be relieved to know that Dan Aykroyd didn’t pursue his initial career plan to become a priest.

Instead of following that path of spirituality, he went into stand-up comedy and then acting, for which he is perhaps best-known for battling evil spirits in the 1984 box office smash Ghostbusters.

In more recent years Aykroyd has delved into the business of another kind of spirits – alcoholic drinks – selling both tequila and vodka.

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He has run his own vodka company since 2007

As warm and friendly in real life as his public persona suggests, he says that his now more than 45 years as a professional actor made him very well prepared to make the step across to also being an entrepreneur.

“The moment I entered the acting trade I was in ‘show business’,” says the 67-year-old. “I had to market and broker deals for myself.

“Every audition is a sale, then you have to follow it up with a contract, union obligations, tax planning, as well as – if you have a good job as an actor – investment.

“Then, when I was originating my projects, that is selling a piece of material, I had to set a value and broker a deal. So, I’ve been in show business all the way through. It’s not too hard to look at the numbers in another dimension.”

Born in Ottawa, the Canadian capital, in 1952, his dad was a policy advisor to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the father of the current incumbent Justin. Aykroyd’s mother was a secretary.

He attended Catholic school, hence the initial plan to become a priest, but changed his mind at the age of 17. He then studied criminology and sociology at Carleton University in Ottawa, only to drop out before completing his degree. Instead of studying he started out as a comedian, and helped to run a bar.

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The Blues Brothers movie helped Aykroyd become a household name

His big break came in 1975 when, aged 22, he was appointed to the writing team of a forthcoming new US comedy sketch show called Saturday Night Live. Aykroyd managed to also get himself a starring role, and he was a key feature of the first four series that ran from that year to 1979.

Film work then followed, and in 1980 he had a major hit starring in The Blues Brothers, for which he also co-wrote the screenplay. The movie remains a much-loved comedy classic, and Aykroyd still occasionally tours with the “The Blues Brothers Band”, singing as his character from the film – Elwood Blues.

Ghostbusters arrived four years later, which he again co-wrote, and he was shortlisted for a best supporting actor Oscar for 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy. Other film highlights include Trading Places, Spies Like Us, Antz, and Grosse Pointe Blank.

Aykroyd has also directed one movie – 1991’s Nothing But Trouble – which he says helped hone his management skills. “The first thing [as a director] is that you have to respect what others are doing for you, respect that they have skills and abilities that you may think you know something about, but you don’t, because you don’t do that particular function with an organisation,” he says. “Let them do their job.”

Unfortunately the film was a flop, costing $40m (£31m), but only making $8.5m at the box office. “The studio will kill you if you lose that kind of money,” he says. “Your career’s hit with a sniper’s bullet.”

Luckily, however, Aykroyd’s film career weathered that storm.

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The original Ghostbusters movie was a global box office success

His first business venture came in 1992 when he co-founded the House of Blues live music venue and restaurant chain. The business is now owned by entertainment giant Live Nation, but Aykroyd remains a paid consultant.

The move into the alcohol industry came in 2005, when Aykroyd set up a company to import Patron tequila into Canada. Two years later he launched his pride and joy – Crystal Head vodka.

More The Boss features:

Easy to spot thanks to its human skull-shaped glass bottle, Aykroyd says it is a premium product. It is made in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador from Canadian corn, and he remains the majority owner.

He adds that the bottle design was chosen as a nod to the legend that ancient tribes across the Americas used crystal skulls in religious ceremonies. The vodka has now sold more than 13 million bottles.

“I go around the world talking about the fluid and how proud I am that it’s from Canada, I get to talk up my country,” says Aykroyd.

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Aykroyd and his wife Donna Dixon have been married for 37 years

Holly Wyatt, managing partner of Kinetic Brands, a Canadian company that helps promote spirits, says that Crystal Head has certainly benefited from the fact it is owned by a celebrity.

“When Aykroyd launched it, it was cool because it was him,” she says. “It is also a great package and a great liquid, so people would go back to it. But him being still being involved is very evidently a reason why some consumers buy the brand.”

While the vodka business takes up some of his time, he is still busy with acting work. Not that he needs the money – his net wealth is estimated at $135m.

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This summer’s Ghostbusters movie will see Aykroyd reunite with co-star and friend Billy Murray

This summer he stars in the latest Ghostbusters movie, the fourth in the series. He says he is pleased to be wrestling with the supernatural kind of spirits again.

In fact, Aykroyd has had a lifelong interest in the supernatural, something he picked up from his father, and a great grandfather who was a mystic.

“You know, my great grandfather Sam Aykroyd, the psychic researcher and dentist from Kingston, Ontario, would be very happy that Ghostbusters has stimulated such fun and laughter, as well as interest in the paranormal.”



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Mac Miller sounds ‘at peace’ on posthumous album

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Before Mac Miller died in 2018, he was working on an album called Circles.

The songs were being finished with the help of songwriter and producer Jon Brion, who went on to complete the album after Mac’s death.

The rapper’s family decided to release the album, which is out today, saying in an Instagram post that it’s a “complicated process that has no right answer”.

There can be concerns over whether putting out someone’s music after they’ve died is the right thing to do, with fans worrying about the impact it might have on artist’s legacy.

“I think sometimes the families try and capitalise on the music in a way that’s not what the artist would’ve wanted”, says 26-year-old Henry Dean.

He’s a photographer and Mac Miller fan, and he worked with the rapper a few years ago on a magazine shoot. He spoke to Radio 1 Newsbeat at a free event to celebrate the UK release of the new album.

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Henry is pictured here with some of his art of Mac

“Posthumous music is a murky area. I’m always sceptical of whether it’s being handled right. Obviously, I don’t know Mac’s inner circle so I can’t judge.

“Artists have banks of thousands of songs and not all of them are meant to come out, so I’m hoping everything on this album is stuff that he was actively planning on releasing.”

In their post on Instagram, Mac’s family said: “We simply know that it was important to Malcom for the world to hear it”

“The look on his face when everyone was listening said it all.”

After the launch event in east London, fans seemed pleased with the result.

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Paris, Lauren, Ray and Simone were excited to hear Mac Miller’s new album

“It sounded perfect, it was very Mac Miller,” says 23-year-old fan Paris.

“You could tell it was something he would’ve wanted to come out had he been here.”

Paris’ friend Lauren agrees.

“I was a bit worried it was going to be Mac’s voice on someone else’s songs, because it wasn’t finished by him. Having listened, it was a very Mac album all the way through.

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Mac Miller was 26 when he died from an accidental overdose

Roisin O’Connor is the music correspondent for the Independent. She was invited to listen to the album by the music producers who worked on it.

“Hearing them talk, it was made very clear that the family had given their blessing for the album to be released,” she says.

“It wasn’t just scraps of material, it was intended to be an album. He’d completed a lot of it before his death – it was final touches. To release it was almost like fulfilling his wishes.”

She says that while posthumous music releases can be treacherous territory, Circles feels like a complete body of work from Mac himself.

“It’s him at his creative peak. He sounds at peace, and philosophical about getting through each day.”

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.





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Belfast artist Jordan Adetunji on Ireland’s hip-hop music scene

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Hip hop music has seen a surge in popularity right across the island of Ireland over the last number of years.

Local artists are seeing their music make waves both at home and across the globe, headlining shows and playing venues, something Jordan Adetunji admits that only a couple of years ago “wouldn’t really be happening”.

The Belfast artist became the first ever hip-hop act to play at the NI Music Prize in 2019.

He spoke to BBC News NI about the “developing” scene that isn’t “just the typical”.

Video journalist: Jordan Kenny



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