Should free TV licences stay or go?
Time is running out to make your views known on free TV for the elderly
The BBC wants to hear from you about its plans to cut the number of people who get free television licences.
At the moment, a household where someone aged 75 or more lives doesn’t have to pay for a TV licence – currently £150.50 a year, rising, it’s thought, by around £3 in April.
Free TV licences for people over the age of 75 were introduced by then Chancellor Gordon Brown in 2000. They were paid for by the Department for Work and Pensions. Then, as part of the licence fee settlement with the BBC in 2015, the Government agreed that the fee could rise with inflation, but transferred the cost of providing free licences to the BBC.
From June 2020, the full cost of this concession to the over-75s will fall on the BBC, reducing its income by around £745 million in 2021/22 – about 15 per cent of its £5 billion total. That is more than the £656m that the BBC currently spends on all its radio services and almost as much as it spends on all its TV channels, excluding BBC1.
Having to find £745m would be a huge blow and, the BBC says, would reduce the quality of the programming and services it can provide.
It suggests three options for reducing the cost:
A Raise the age limit (to 77 or 80).
B Raise the amount older people pay from zero to, for example, 50 per cent of the TV licence fee – the reduced rate paid by blind people.
C Only give a free TV licence where the person aged over 75 has a low enough income to qualify for the means-tested pension credit.
It doesn’t include the option of taking free licences from households where the person over 75 is not the householder and wouldn’t pay the licence fee anyway.
Age UK has already launched a campaign to preserve the free TV licence in its current form. Director Caroline Abrahams says TV is a lifeline for older people and “there are still significant numbers of older people living on very low incomes who would genuinely struggle to pay the licence fee”.
Read more and give your views at bbc.co.uk
For a paper copy, call 0800 232 1382.
The final date to give your views is 12 February.