New BBC boss told to rethink decision to scrap free TV licences for over-75s.
Campaigners urged the corporation’s new chief Tim Davie to end the row – after 3.7 million pensioners were stripped of the lifeline benefit.
Ben Glaze – Deputy Political Editor Daily Mirror.
1ST SEPTEMBER 2020
The new head of the BBC has been urged to save the free TV licence fee for the over-75s.
The BBC’s new boss has been urged to bring back free TV licences for over-75s as he starts his new job.
Tim Davie takes up the role of director-general on Tuesday, having succeeded Lord Tony Hall.
Campaigners called on the corporation’s new chief to work with the Government to thrash out a solution to the free licences’ row – a month after 3.7 million pensioners were robbed of the lifeline.
The Silver Voices group warned 87% of its members were ready to stop paying their £157.50-a-year fee in protest at other OAPs being stripped of their entitlement.
The poll also found 97% back its “Gum Up the Works” campaign to disrupt the licence fee system.
Tim Davie faces calls for a u-turn on the decision to axe the benefit for pensioners.
Moves it has suggested to hamper administration include writing cheques in Cornish or Gaelic, “forgetting” to date or sign cheques and making out cheques for amounts slightly higher or lower than the precise fee.
Director Dennis Reed said: “The appointment of a new director-general provides an ideal opportunity for the Government and BBC to discuss a solution to end this long-running dispute.
“Mr Davie will not want a campaign of civil disobedience festering away and undermining the credibility of the whole licence system.
“The militancy of senior citizens on this issue is growing all the time, however, so early progress is essential.
“We will not hesitate to escalate our action if the BBC and Government continue with their barren ‘blame game’ approaches.”
The Conservatives pledged at the 2017 election to protect over-75s’ free licences for the rest of that Parliament, which was due to run until 2022.
Members of the National Pensioners’ Convention took part in protests over the reimposition of the TV licence fee on the over-75s.
But the BBC had already been handed responsibility for funding the benefit from June 2020, under a deal agreed in 2015.
It said keeping licences free for all over-75s would cost £745million by 2021-22.
The corporation announced restrictions from August 1, meaning only over-75s who receive pension credit are eligible.
The Mirror has campaigned to save the benefit for all over-75s, with more than 18,000 readers backing the fight by completing coupons in the paper.
Silver Voices, which carried out an email poll of its 2,700 members through SurveyMonkey, between August 18 and 25, claimed Mr Davie starting his job offered a chance for a rethink.
In a letter to the new boss, Mr Reed says he hopes “one of your first priorities will be to settle this dispute”.
He adds: “We do hope that the occasion of your appointment will prompt an attempt by the BBC and Government to find a solution on this issue.
“Attitudes have already hardened amongst senior citizens, who are the BBC’s most loyal viewers, and we have no sympathy for the blame game being conducted by the BBC and Government, when both bodies are clearly responsible for the current mess.”
Why The Daily Mirror is fighting this injustice.
One in four over-75s rely on TV for their main form of companionship, which is why the Mirror believes it is vital to keep this lifeline available through a free licence.
Tory George Osborne decided the BBC should take over from the Government to fund the free TV licence bill from 2020.
BBC chiefs have launched a public consultation but say the £745million cost would use a fifth of their budget and deep cuts would be needed on TV programmes.
Gordon Brown says the Government should pay, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright thinks it’s the BBC’s responsibility.
We believe free TV licences for over-75s should continue – whoever pays.
Labour peer Lord Foulkes, chairman of Parliament’s cross-party group on ageing and older people, said: “The decision to scrap free TV licences for over-75s was cruel and unjust.
“As the gravity of the situation begins to take effect, many of those who rely on their TV for information, entertainment and company, will be forced to choose between increasing loneliness or poverty.
“While the BBC are treating the decision as a done deal, there are increasing calls, from both inside and outside Parliament, for the new director-general to take the initiative from the start and work with the Government to alter the direction of travel before it is too late.
“This Punch and Judy show between the Government and the BBC must come to an end, with both parties required to come together to find a solution.”
A BBC Spokesperson: ‘We’ve received the letter and will of course respond in due course. In the meantime, we would point out that it was the Government who decided to stop funding free TV licences for the over 75s.
“The BBC Board believes the fairest option is to help the poorest older pensioners. Around 1.5 million households could get free TV licences if someone is over 75 and receives Pension Credit.
“Critically, it is not the BBC making that judgement about poverty, it is the Government who set and control who is eligible for Pension Credit and what level of payments are made.”
‘REVIVE FREE TV LICENCE’
Protesters tell new BBC boss to expect disruption.
By Ben Glaze Political Editor Daily Mirror.
1ST SEPTEMBER 2020.
THE new head of the BBC has been urged to bring back free TV licences for over-75s as he starts his new job today.
Tim Davie succeeds Lord Tony Hall in the role of director-general – and campaigners last night called on him to work with the Government to thrash out a solution to the long-running free licences row.
Some 3.7 million pensioners were robbed of the lifeline a month ago and the
Silver Voices group has warned 87% of its members are ready to stop paying their £157.50-a-year fee in protest. Other disruptive protests planned by members include writing cheques in Cornish or Gaelic and “forgetting” to date or sign cheques.
Its director Dennis Reed said: “Mr Davie will not want a campaign of civil disobedience festering away and undermining the credibility of the licence system. “The militancy of senior citizens on this issue is growing all the time… We will not hesitate to escalate our action.” In 2017 the Conservatives made an election pledge to protect the benefit until 2022.
But under a deal agreed in 2015, the BBC had already been handed responsibility for funding it from June 2020.
A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC Board believes the fairest option is to help the poorest older pensioners. Around 1.5 million households could get free TV licences if someone is over 75 and receives Pension Credit.
“Critically, it is not the BBC making that judgment about poverty, it is the Government.”