BBC to scrap free TV licences forcing millions of pensioners to pay

10 June 2019

The BBC has announced it is scrapping the free TV licence for over-75s.

3.7 million pensioners will have to stump up the annual fee from next year.

However, anyone in receipt of pension credit over the age of 75 will be able to receive a free licence from June 2020. This new scheme will cost the BBC around £250 million by 2021/22.

The BBC says the current scheme is “untenable” and would have cost the corporation £745 million per year – equivalent to around one fifth of its budget.

The current licence fee costs £154.50 for a colour licence and £52 for a black and white licence.

BBC chairman Sir David Clementi says: "The BBC has conducted the biggest and most wide-ranging consultation in its history. It has proved invaluable in helping the Board make its decision. While many supported copying the Government’s concession - so that all over 75s received a free TV licence - there was also strong support for reform. There was least support for abolishing the concession entirely.

"Ultimately, the Board did not think it right to abolish all free TV licences. While research suggests pensioners are now better off than they were when the concession was first introduced nearly 20 years ago, the simple fact is that many are still in poverty - and many want the companionship the BBC can provide. This was a point made by many and we listened and ruled abolition out.”

The BBC says that up to 1.5 million households could still receive a free TV licence, if the household has at least one over-75 person. However, only 900,000 households are currently in receipt of pension credit, so those who are eligible but don't receive it would need to apply before getting a free TV licence.

Over-75s will have to self-verify that they are in receipt of pension credit in order to qualify. The BBC says this method is “used widely by the public and private sector.”

Those over-75s who become eligible to pay the licence fee will be given the option of a payment plan, which the BBC says will make it easier for them to meet the financial obligation in future. The BBC will set out further details of this “shortly.”

Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London and former pensions minister says means testing the free TV licence using the pension credit system will create a "cliff edge" for those earning just £1 more than the threshold.

“Limiting free TV licences to those on pension credit creates a ‘cliff edge’ where those with incomes just a pound above benefit levels lose all help with their TV licence. Many of those who have worked hard and built up modest pensions but who are by no means well off will be hard hit," he says.

"There is also an issue with people who are entitled to claim pension credit but do not do so – up to 1.3 million on the government’s own estimates. Taking away help from some of the poorest pensioners and from others on modest incomes will feel very unfair to those most affected."

BBC Director-General Tony Hall says: "This has not been an easy decision. Whilst we know that pensioner incomes have improved since 2000, we also know that for some the TV Licence is a lot of money. I believe we have reached the fairest judgement after weighing up all the different arguments. It would not be right simply to abolish all free licences. Equally it would not be right to maintain it in perpetuity given the very profound impact that would have on many BBC services.

"This decision is fairest for the poorest pensioners. Around 1.5 million households could get free TV licences if someone is over 75 and receives pension credit. It protects those most in need. And importantly, it is not the BBC making that judgement about poverty. It is the government who sets and controls that measure."

The BBC says that the decision means its income will now rise in line with inflation and provide a “measure of protection” for its services.

Mr Hall adds: "It is fairest for all audiences - of all generations, old and young - who we know value the BBC and the programmes and services we provide. It means these services can continue.

“We also need to look at how the level of the licence fee is set in the future. The last two settlements have been made in the dark and without proper consultation. It is vital that future decisions are evidence-based and made after proper consultation and scrutiny. We need to find a better way."

But Mr Webb says: "Other options for reducing the cost of TV licences would have included increasing the age of eligibility to 80. This would have focused on a generally poorer group of pensioners and a group which spends more time at home watching television, but would have avoided some of the problems of a means-tested solution”.


In reply to by Contax (not verified)

You started off making a fair point but unfortunately ended it by suggesting Pensioners should pay 50p per journey AND pay tax on a benefit that they may not use. The Bus Pass and Winter Fuel Allowance are essential for the greater majority of Pensioners and although it may bring in a little income from, as you put it, the Well off it would be a drop in the ocean. If we stopped the House of Lords paying £300, tax free, to those members who sign on and stay for 45 minutes then we should save £86million a year. Thats realistic and much fairer.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

How come those on GPC many of which have never paid anything into the system get a free TV Licence, they receive £167 a month the same as those who paid into the system for 50 years to receive the same £167 a week. Those on GPC qualify for a long list of extra benefits making them far better off than those who paid for the system, it's time all the extra benefits are stopped and they should only receive the £167 like pensioners who paid for their £167. If the free TV Licence is to be stopped it should be stopped for everyone. As for the BBC it should be divided up and sold off to the highest bidder and be self funding like other broadcasters. At the same time the Bus Pass should be off peak only and carry a charge of 50p for each trip like many did before Gordon Browns bribes, Bus pass should be valued at say £100 for tax purposes same as WFA should be taxable, that would bring back a bit from the well off.

In reply to by Brian Hubbard (not verified)

Rather than them penalise pensioners by next removing the other treats I would rather see a small charge imposed, in W.Yoks. my mother and aunt had a bus pass where they paid 10p then 20p for each trip which they loved.As a bribe to get votes Gordon Brown made it a Free Bus Pass with no charge to use nationwide, the old system was great especially for old people living in rural areas. As for TV licence if I am paying for a licence at 74 what changes when I reach 75, I would settle for everyone pay half or third of price rather than the unfair system they are bringing in. Putting a tax value on these benefits mean those who are better off paying tax would return a small amount in tax. After all none of us should expect everything for free as someone has to pay for it. I also object to the benefits to the young in many cases such as help to buy which is abused by the better off.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The BBC, Ms Sumner, has now arrogantly replied to the outcry of the excessive salaries paid by a, saying it wouldn't make any difference, it would only save £25million if it kept all salaries below £150,00. and b, and not commenting on the argument that if they hadn't paid such ridiculous salaries in the first place they wouldn't be in the position they are now. She then continues in her arrogance by saying the rising costs would have meant closure of services that we know older audiences, in particular, love, use and value every day. The fact is many pensioners will be unable to afford the licence fee, not being in receipt of pension credit benefits, so will not be able too view it anyway. The BBC have their own agenda, believing, like politicians, they have the monopoly on intelligence. Much of what they show is good but much is for a very small proportion of the viewing public and has only been produced to boost their own ego. Look at the credits at the end of most films, plays, etc. produced by the BBC, the list is never ending and we the taxpayer is paying for it even if we don't want to watch it.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Its an anachronism that we have to pay one tv company,to be able to watch all other tv companies, on our own tv,s ,who raise their revenue by advertising and not us directly.The bbc should compete for its revenues like all the others...I also agree with Maxadolf that George Osborne knew that when they landed finances on the bbc..his govt saved .75 billion and he was taxing the over no covenant to continue with the status quo was built into the govt/bbc agreement!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What a bunch of scumbags! 'The BBC says the current scheme is “untenable” and would have cost the corporation £745 million per year'. This is a ridiculous statement, it should they will lose £745 million revenue that greases the pockets of this private members club.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh for the day when watching the BBC becomes optional, I would opt out in an instant. The political correctness and bias is getting worse every year.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If I shall have to pay to watch some fairly rubbishy TV why do the BBC continue to pay the likes of Linaker around £2 million a year just to sound off his mouth? A total and realistic look at the BBC's spending should be carried out.Why not give a licence at 50% the normal rate to those on State Pension? No continuous checking needed to see ifpension credit applies etc. Anyway if I don't watch BBC anymore I suppose that Sky etc can see to all of my needs

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

This is all down to the Tory Government who knew in advance that removal of the non-payment status for pensioners would come into effect, after the transferred responsibility for the tax to the BBC for suppling an abominable service. Everyone, except the snouts at the BBC, accepts that getting money on a plate from the public is an anachronism given the many good quality and free channels available, a situation fundamentally different from when the BBC were the recipients of what was then a fair tax on a monopoly broadcasting facility. The controllers of the BBC will not recognise that, frankly, we don’t care if they threaten us with removal of their channels, simply because what they dish out is largely recycled rubbish. They don’t get the message that they have been overpaying themselves with telephone-number salaries, much of it not fully taxed by being party to encouraging highly paid executives and other so-called celebrity-status snouts, to pay the lower corporation tax by them setting up companies instead of being in receipt of salaries from their corrupt employer, the BBC. There is so much that the BBC could do to cut their costs. And eternal shame on the Tory Government for not imposing such cost savings. All this was horribly predictable when it happened under the pathetic Cameron Government. And Theresa May is being more than a little disingenuous in condemning the BBC, now that she’s lost all credibility and power for her disastrous reign of incompetence. The two party system is about to expire! It was and is a dangerous policy for any party to ignore pensioner power!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Disgusting.They need to cut within like other companies do/Cut staff wages and celebrity fees.About time they funded themselves.Do not hide behind the statement that programmes will be cut.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Re BBC Stopping Free Pensioner TV Please ask the powers that be ( and spend MY money ) why they make absolute rubbish like Gentlemen Jack. Even In these days of "liberation," I still fail to see why such expensive " Serials-" not even just a single programme to get it out of their system ) be spent on such rubbish which must offend the majority of we Licence Payers !!! I resent wasting my time on the first episode. Thank goodness there are other Channels !!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Perhaps if the BBC "scrapped" the extortionate salaries they pay (at the expense of licence payers) to many of their presenters, they would have more money in the pot.

TV licence

If all pensioners who will have to pay next year have the courage to not pay this fee this would bankrupt the BBC. What could they do except try to take millions of OAPs to court for non payment.

Also on checking the BBC programmes one Monday evening all but 2 programmes were repeats!!

In reply to by Christine Bailey (not verified)

I am over 75

It is disgusting that people over the age have to pay the licence for TV again when every other TV channel you get free because they get it from advertising. It is about time the TV licence was scrapped completely and the BBC starts doing advertisements.

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