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BBC scraps free TV licences for over-75s

Only those claiming pension credit will still be able to get a free licence

Stephen Little
Thu, 07/09/2020 – 16:38

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The BBC is going ahead with its plan to scrap free TV licences after a two-month delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision means more than three million additional households will have to pay the £157.50 fee from 1 August.

The broadcaster was originally going to make the change on 1 June, but this was postponed for two months because of the coronavirus crisis.

The BBC chairman, David Clementi, says the broadcaster could not continue delaying the scheme without “impacting on programmes and services”.

He says: “Around 1.5 million households could get free TV licences if someone is over 75 and receives Pension Credit, and 450,000 of them have already applied.

“And critically it is not the BBC making that judgement about poverty. It is the Government who sets and controls that measure.”

Backlash

The move to end free licences has been slammed by charities and MPs.

Labour’s shadow culture secretary, Jo Stevens, says: “The refusal of the Government to fund this vital service after promising to do so is nothing short of betrayal.

“Many over-75s have spent months at home with TV providing an invaluable source of company during the pandemic. For the Government to blame the BBC, who are having to contend with huge cuts, is simply passing the buck.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK says the decision is another “kick in the teeth” for millions of pensioners.

She says: “Everyone needs to understand that under the BBC’s scheme many hundreds of thousands of the poorest pensioners will be facing a bill they will simply be unable to afford to pay.

“We genuinely worry about the mental health of older people living on their own in this situation if they have to give up their cherished TV – for some it really is all they have and their main way of alleviating their chronic loneliness.”

The cost of funding the TV licence for people aged over 75 is £745 million a year.

Why is this happening?

The BBC says that to renew the scheme would cost around a fifth of its budget – the equivalent to what it spends on BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, CBBC and CBeebies.

In 2015, the Government announced it would no longer subsidise the cost of the licence fee and the BBC would have to find the funding itself.

Abrahams says: “The BBC has taken this decision today but in reality the principal responsibility lies with the Government.”

Are you still eligible for a free TV licence?

Around 1.5 million households that include someone over 75 claiming pension credit could still be eligible for a free licence.

However, Age UK estimates that two in five of all those eligible do not claim pension credit, often because they do not realise they are eligible.

In order to claim your weekly income must be less than £167.25 if you are single, or £255.25 if you are a couple.

The quickest way to apply for pension credit is to call the pension service on 0800 991234. Alternatively, you can check your eligibility online on the government website here: https://www.gov.uk/pension-credit

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