BBC warns unless over-75s pay for a TV licence it may have to "fundamentally change" with cuts to service

Published by Stephen Little on 21 November 2018.
Last updated on 04 December 2018

TV set and remote control

The BBC says it may have to cut services unless over-75s start paying the licence fee, as it launched a consultation on the matter.

At the moment, all households with people aged over 75 are entitled to receive a free TV licence which costs £745 million a year and is due to finish in June 2020.

Moneywise reported in October that free TV licences for over-75s could be scrapped.

Now, the corporation has launched a consultation with a number of proposals to compensate for the loss of government funding for the scheme.

The broadcaster has warned that if the BBC renews the scheme this would cost around a fifth of its budget - the equivalent to what it spends on BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, CBBC and CBeebies.

That would mean over-75s would not have to pay, as at present, but the corporation says it would “fundamentally change” the BBC because of the scale of service cuts it would need to make.

One option would be to reinstate the fee for those over 75, but this would particularly hit poorer pensioners and mean they could be prosecuted for failing to pay.

Other proposals include raising the age of a free licence from 75 to 80 or introducing means-testing so that only those that can afford it pay.

Alternatively, a discount of 50% could be offered for older people, although this would still mean a shortfall in funding.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks until 12 February. The BBC says it hopes to make a decision by next summer.

Charity Age UK opposes the change, saying there are “significant practical difficulties and create unfairness for different groups of older people”.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says: “There are two million people aged 75-plus, one in two of whom is disabled and one in four of whom view the television as their main form of companionship.

"For many others, including those who are chronically lonely - a social problem we are far more aware of than was the case a few years ago - the TV is a precious window on the world.”

She adds: “The BBC took on responsibility for the concession as part of a broader deal with the Government in which they received some significant benefits.

"Now it is their responsibility to appreciate the very significant role that television plays in many older people's lives and the damaging consequences of watering the concession down or removing it from them.”

People aged over 75 currently don’t have to pay the licence fee, saving £150.50 each year.

Free TV licences for the over-75s were introduced by the Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown in 2001.

However, in 2015 the government announced it would no longer subsidise the cost of the licence fee and the BBC would have to find the funding itself.

Tony Hall, BBC director-general, says: “We have set out a range of options - each has merits and consequences, with implications for the future of the BBC, and for everyone, including older people.

"We need to hear views to help the BBC make the best and fairest decision.”

If you would like to have a say in the consultation, you can do so on the BBC website

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I am 83 and I need my

I am 83 and I need my television licence paid as I have very little left to survive on after all my enormous bills have been paid I even suggest that the BBC closes down and leave broadcasting to those services provided by advertising.. The BBC is now comparatively poor value for money and have been overtaken by services adequately financed.

I say be like itv and them

I say be like itv and them and then no one pays BBC are just greedy but if they want to make money and make people pay then do like what someone else said make it pay to veiw or take a loss and just leave it as it is o.a.p don't get much as it is and yet most have done so much for this country so why should they have to pay for a licence when most of the time it's crap that is on anyway