End of free BBC licence ‘huge blow’ to over-75s

The BBC takes full responsibility for the over-75s scheme next year
Anthony Devlin  PA

The BBC takes full responsibility for the over-75s scheme next year Credit Anthony Devlin PA

The publicly funded broadcaster announced today that free TV licence fees for over-75s will soon be means-tested.

Following a public consultation, the BBC Board has chose to retain free TV licences but only for over 75 year olds who receive pension credit.

However, after a review, the concession will now be available only to households receiving Pension Credit. "This new scheme will cost the BBC around £250 million a year". However, in 2015 the Conservative government, guided by George Osborne, struck a deal under which the subsidy would be phased out from 2020 onwards, with the broadcaster having to shoulder the cost of free TV licences.

He added that the move could potentially "increase isolation" of some pensioners "and have a negative impact on their mental health".

Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: 'This will cause enormous anxiety and distress, but in the end it is the government's fault, not the BBC's'. Indeed, a significant number thought the Government should continue to fund it - an option not open to the BBC.

The Government has been condemned following the BBC's decision to means-test licence fees for the elderly.

Households without anyone who receives Pension Credit will have to pay for a TV licence under the new policy.

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"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 corporation was due to take over the cost of free TV licences as part of its new charter agreement which commenced in 2017.

Millions of households will have to start paying £154.50 a year from June 2020 for the right to watch live television and access the BBC's iPlayer service.

But The Intergenerational Foundation, which aims to improve intergenerational fairness, said: "There is simply no reason why retired judges, lawyers, bankers and doctors should receive a free TV licence when younger generations are struggling financially".

"This decision is fairest for the poorest pensioners".

Another person wrote on Twitter: "I find it incredibly hard to believe that we can't afford to give pensioners, who have paid tax their whole lives, a free licence".

The free licence fee was introduced by a Labour government in 2000. Equally it would not be right to maintain it in perpetuity given the very profound impact that would have on many BBC services. The scale of the current concession and its quickly rising cost would have meant profoundly damaging closures of major services that we know audiences - and older audiences in particular - love, use, and value every day.

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