BBC scraps universal free TV licences for over-75s

BritBox streaming service

BritBox streaming service

Licence fees were being reviewed by the BBC, with the full cost of concession due to be passed to the corporation from government in June 2020.

Now the BBC says the burden is unsustainable.

The current annual licence fee costs £154.50 for a colour TV.

The BBC will operate a self-verification system where individuals aged 75 or over, need to demonstrate their receipt of Pension Credit in order to qualify.

TV Licensing will also be launching a free telephone information line this month where older customers and their relatives can access recorded information on the new policy and advice to customers by calling 0800 232 1382.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK's charity director, said: "Make no mistake, 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".

Up to 3.75 million pensioners will be stripped of the right to a free television licence next year after the BBC chose to means-test the benefit.

"Pensioner poverty is now increasing, loneliness is reaching crisis levels among older people and the BBC has the bare-faced cheek to call this fair".

The backlash is not entirely unhelpful for the BBC.

Although the BBC insists that the announcement had been planned before the Tory leadership election, unveiling the decision on the same day that candidates formally declared inevitably turned the licence fee into a live political issue.

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Aren't pensioner benefits are matter for Whitehall to administer and pay for through general taxation?

While many supported copying the Government's concession - so that all over 75s received a free TV licence - there was also strong support for reform.

It said only households with one person who receives Pension Credit will now be eligible.

The BBC belongs to all of us.

Asking pensioners to pay for a television licence will "not solve the real long-term issues facing the BBC", a DUP MP has said.

The broadcaster said this afternoon it will now restrict the free licences to pensioners who meet strict criteria. This time it was Hall - who back in 2015 had warned there would "be hard choices" as a result of the deal he helped to strike - who made the announcement that most over-75s would have to start paying for BBC services unless they claim pension credit.

"We have been clear that we expected the BBC to continue this concession".

Campaign groups condemned the decision.

"This is an extra tax on older folk who might not have the cash to pay it".

The decision to scrap the blanket-fees follows a consultation with 190,000 people, where 52% were in favour of reforming or abolishing the free licences.

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