Free TV licences end on Saturday – what that means for the over 75s.
The controversial decision to axe the free licence fee for pensioners will come into effect on August 1 – after it was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lizzy Buchan Political Correspondent.
30TH JULY 2020
Over-75s will no longer be entitled to free TV licences from August 1.
What is really going on in po
Millions of pensioners will have to start paying the BBC licence fee for the first time from the beginning of August.
People over 75 have been entitled to a free TV licence since 2000, allowing them to watch TV and listen to BBC radio without paying the annual charge.
This exemption was due to end in June but the controversial move was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
An estimated 3.7million pensioners currently receive the benefit but will now have to pay £157.50 per year to use their TV.
Here’s what the changes mean for you.
What are the current rules?
Millions of pensioners will be affected by the changes.
Anyone who watches live TV or uses BBC I-player must pay £157.50 per year for a TV licence for their household.
If you do not use a TV then you do not have to pay.
The licence free can be paid in installments or as a lump sum – and people who fail to pay can be prosecuted.
Over-75s have been exempt from paying the fee since 2000, with the shortfall paid by the Government.
What will happen on August 1?
More than three million households will be lose their entitlement to a free licence fee.
TV licensing will write to all licence holders over 75 to explain how to pay the fee.
Specialist call centres have been set up to help people deal with the change, and it can also be done online, so no one has to leave their homes to pay during the pandemic.
Does this affect everyone over 75?
No. Anyone who receives pension credit can still claim a free TV licence, which will be funded by the BBC.
Households where someone claims this benefit – which is available for the poorest pensioners – are able to apply for a free licence.
More than 1.5million people claim pension credit, according to Government figures.
The BBC said it had received more than 450,000 applications already.
Why are these changes happening?
The BBC said funding the exemption would cost £745million annually by 2021/22.
The BBC took the decision to axe the free licence fee amid a major squeeze on its budgets.
The corporation said funding the exemption for pensioners would cost it some £745million annually by 2021-22.
It had been handed responsibility for paying for the free licence fee for the elderly in 2015 by the Government, which previously footed the bill.
It is a source of tension between the Government and the BBC – with each side criticising the other for the controversial move.
The Tories previously pledged to protect the benefit in their 2017 manifesto.
And Boris Johnson’s spokesman said scrapping the free licence fee for pensioners was “the wrong decision”.
But critics say the principle responsibility lies with the Government.
What has the reaction been?
Age UK said it was “bitterly disappointed’ by the decision and said many elderly people may be forced to give up their TVs, which have been a “lifeline” during the pandemic.
The Mirror has been campaigning to save the benefit, with support from well-known faces such as former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, ex-Strictly judge Len Goodman and actor Ricky Tomlinson.
“The idea that you could take away so many people’s connection to the outside world is cruel,” he said.
“It’s simply not good enough for the Government to pass the buck and blame the BBC.”