BBC ends universal free licences for over 75s

Brenda Watkins
June 12, 2019

The BBC has confirmed plans to make most over-75s pay the TV licence fee, arguing that it is the only way to avoid closing channels and making substantial cutbacks.

From June 2020 any household with someone aged over 75 who receives Pension Credit will be eligible for a free TV licence funded by the BBC.

We don't receive pension credit.

Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: "If this scheme goes ahead we are going to see sick and disabled people in their eighties and nineties who are completely dependent on their cherished TV for companionship and news, forced to give it up".

She said there would be anger towards the BBC, but it was ultimately the responsibility of the Government and urged the next Prime Minister to cover the costs until the BBC's funding was up for negotiation in 2022.

Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson previously said the Tories are "outsourcing welfare policy to a public broadcaster" and breaking their 2017 manifesto commitment to keep the pensioner benefit for the duration of the Parliament.

The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch, said the "really disappointing move" would affect over 75,000 people living here.

BBC director-general Tony Hall said the move was "not an easy decision".

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"Taxpayers want to see the BBC using its substantial licence fee income in an appropriate way to ensure it delivers for United Kingdom audiences".

There were fears that numerous poorest pensioners may not receive their free licence since only 62 per cent of eligible households now claim Pension Credit. "People across this country value television as a way to stay connected and we want the BBC to look again at ways to support older people", the spokesman told reporters.

The BBC will be scrapping universal free licences for the over 75s as of next year, saying fairness was at the heart of the decision. If you're watching Brian Cox's The Planets on BBC Two just now you'll know how much that ideal still means to us.

He said: "Whilst we know that pensioner incomes have improved since 2000, we also know that for some the TV licence is a lot of money".

Research from the House of Commons Library found that 3mn households would lose their free TV licence as a result of the decision. "The BBC must be held properly to account for the decisions they are taking and the impact it will have on many people who can ill-afford this extra financial burden".

"We at the DCMS Committee will continue to monitor the BBC, and in particular the impact that this cost will have on the BBC's future and its programming".

"We already know that 650,000 of the poorest pensioner households are eligible, but do not claim Pension Credit".

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