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BBC doesn’t care! Broadcaster’s reputation ‘damaged’ after axing over-75s free TV licences

3 min read

BBC licence fee: Over-75s have 'had enough' says campaigner

In June 2019 the BBC announced it was ending free TV licences for most over-75s. The decision was made despite the BBC agreeing with the Government in 2016 that it would take on responsibility for the free service.

The commitment was made as part of the Royal Charter agreement, which sets out the broadcaster’s obligations for the next 10 years.

Since August 2020, pensioners are required to cough up £157.50 a year to watch the BBC.

Only those over-75s who receive Pensions Credit are now entitled to a free licence.

The scrapping of the perk sparked outrage from campaigners who said TV was a lifeline for the elderly and urged the BBC to reconsider.

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With the corporation standing firm over the issue despite wide-spread public anger, the BBC has been accused not caring about the repetitional damage it is inflicting upon itself.

Dennis Read, Director of the campaign group Silver Voices, said: “The BBC has obviously proved completely impervious to caving.

“It seems quite happy to bear the reputational damage that has been caused by the scrapping of the free licences.”

Silver Voices represents over 60s, campaigning on issues which matter to them.

Last year the group started to take “direct action” to try and force the BBC to back down on the issue of free TV licences.

Silver Voices told over-60s to cancel their direct debits for the licence fee payment and settle fees only by cheque in order to disrupt the payments system.

The group is also providing support to those over-75s who refuse to pay the annual fee.

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BBC TV licence: Free over-75s licence is 'significant' says expert

The BBC defended the decision to remove the free licences when the move was made.

It said at the time: “The fairest option is to help the poorest older pensioners.

“It is also the fairest option for all licence fee payers as this means everyone will continue to receive the best programmes and services that the BBC can provide.”

With little progress made on the issue, Mr Reed is hoping the mid-way review of the Royal Charter due to take place later this year could help cause a breakthrough.

The campaigner is hoping the Government will use it as an opportunity to raise the issue with the broadcaster formally.

He said: “I am sure that the issue of older people’s free licences will come up in those discussions and hopefully there might be a resolution through that mechanism.”

While the terms of the mid-term review indicate it will “not look at the BBC’s mission, purpose or the method by which it is funded” it will consider the organisation’s “governance and regulatory arrangements”.

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