Free TV licenses will officially be scrapped for over 75s from August

Brenda Watkins
July 11, 2020

National Pensioners Convention general secretary Jan Shortt called the news "absolutely devastating" and blamed the "draconian" measure on the government for passing responsibility for the scheme to the BBC.

BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said that, "critically it is not the BBC making that judgment about poverty". The public service broadcaster had delayed a decision on the TV licence for two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Labour's shadow culture minister Christian Matheson earlier said pensioners will be "forced to choose between eating and watching TV" if free TV licences for the over-75s are scrapped. Around 1.5 million households could be eligible and 450,000 have already applied for a free licence.

Bectu has criticised the government for forcing the BBC to charge over-75s for the licence fee or lose essential revenue.

On Thursday it confirmed August 1 would be the start date.

The BBC has been under "severe financial pressure due to the pandemic", he added.

The broadcaster, which faces increased competition from streaming giants, has said it can not afford to take on the financial burden from the Government.

Julian Knight, the chair of the Parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said the news was a "body blow" for British pensioners.

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The Conservative MP said: "This mess is a result of a poor decision struck by the outgoing director-general and now Britain's pensioners are having to pick up the cost".

Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams said: 'Making sure that communication to the public happens well in advance and is crystal clear is a prerequisite for the successful introduction of any new scheme, especially when the recipients include many thousands who are ill, physically and mentally, who are in and out of hospital, dying, or living with a partner going through all of this, as is the case with many over-75s.

The BBC first announced the end of the universal entitlement a year ago, in a move which provoked a swathe of criticism from the likes of Dame Helen Mirren and former prime minister Gordon Brown, who said: "Costs should be covered by the Government".

TV Licensing said: 'No one needs to take any immediate action until they hear from us'.

Under changes announced in the United Kingdom on Thursday, only those who receive the Pension Credit benefit will be exempt from the £157.50 fee.

The cost to the BBC could have reached £1bn a year over time with an ageing population, according to the corporation.

Many rely on the TV as their source of entertainment.

In February, the BBC announced it was cutting 450 jobs to save £80 million.

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