OAP TV licences: Over-75s will have to choose between TV or heating say campaigners
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AgeUK said that the broadcaster was aware many would have to choose between paying the £157.50 tax and eating or heating their homes. Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “The BBC says their new scheme protects the poorest pensioners, but in their hearts they know hundreds of thousands of over-75s on low incomes are set to miss out. It will leave them with a big bill they won’t be able to pay unless they cut down on essentials.
“This is an utterly miserable situation that needs a lot more than warm words from the BBC to make better.”
Pensioners have been entitled to free TV licences for 20 years in a taxpayer-funded concession.
The scheme was due to end on June 1 after the BBC took on responsibility but refused to continue it. It was extended by two months due to the pandemic.
Writing exclusively in today’s Daily Express BBC chairman Sir David Clementi claimed the broadcaster was faced with a choice between continuing the perk or axing services.
He said: “I believe this decision was the fairest in the BBC’s power to make. It’s fairest for older pensioners who are most in need of extra help. And it’s fairest for all licence fee payers, because it means everyone can continue to receive the best programmes and services the BBC can offer.
“Some will feel we should do more. But this scheme will already cost the BBC £250million-a-year.
“Trying to copy the Government’s previous scheme would have cost us around £750million-a-year, rising to £1billion by the end of the decade.”
All viewers aged 75 and over who currently qualify for a free licence will have to pay unless they receive Pension Credit.
Around 900,000 people receive the benefit, yet it is estimated that 1½ million more could be eligible but do not claim.
In total, 3.7 million people – some of the most vulnerable and isolated in Britain – will be forced to pay the fee in order to save the BBC cash.
Dennis Reed, of campaign group Silver Voices, is mobilising members to take direct action and not pay.
He said: “Our campaign has sparked a furious response from older people.
“Not only is their indignation about the Government and BBC reneging on a hard-won universal benefit, but it is also channelling bitterness about public indifference to their plight during the pandemic. Spiteful Saturday on August 1 will be the day when we say enough is enough.”
COMMENT by Sir David Clementi
THE decision on TV licences for older people was an extremely difficult one for the BBC to have to make.
It was not one we could avoid once the Government decided to stop funding free TV licences for those over 75.
It fell on the BBC to come up with and pay for a new scheme to support some of the most vulnerable older people.
That is just what we have done.
From next month, any household with someone aged over 75 who receives pension credit will be entitled to a free TV licence, paid for by the BBC.
I believe this decision was the fairest in the BBC’s power to make.
It’s fairest for older pensioners who are most in need of extra help.
And it’s fairest for all licence fee payers, because it means everyone can continue to receive the best programmes and services the BBC can offer.
Some will feel we should do more.
But this scheme will already cost the BBC £250million a year.
Trying to copy the Government’s previous scheme would have cost us around £750million a year, rising to £1billion by the end of the decade.
Such huge sums would inevitably have meant closures of many BBC services, including BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5 Live and a number of local radio stations, as well as other cuts and reductions.
These closures would profoundly damage the BBC for everyone.
Some have suggested we could bridge the gap if we stopped employing our biggest stars.
The trouble is, even if we employed no presenters paid more than £150,000, that would save us only £10million per year.
The figures simply don’t add up.
The focus now must be on those most affected.
Our priority is to make sure they are supported with care and dignity.
Soon we will write to all over-75 licence holders to explain what happens next.
Everyone will have time to transition to the new scheme.
Around 1½ million people will be eligible for a free TV licence linked to pension credit.
We have already received more than 450,000 applications.
• Sir David Clementi is chairman of the BBC
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