Anger as over-75s lose automatic right to free TV licence

Pensioners over 75 are to lose their automatic right to a free TV licence from next year.

Monday, 10th June 2019, 5:46 pm
Updated Monday, 10th June 2019, 7:11 pm
The BBC says free TV licences will only be available to over-75s receiving Pension Credit from next year

The Government-funded scheme to provide all over-75s with a free licence comes to an end in 2020 and the Government has handed responsibility for it to the BBC.

Now the corporation says only over-75s in receipt of Pension Credit will qualify.

Around 1.5million households could qualify but it is thought more than three million pensioners will have to pay £154.50 a year for a colour television and £52 a year for black and white.

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The BBC says funding licences for all over-75s would mean the end of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5 Live, and a number of local radio stations, as well as other cuts and reductions.

Director-General Tony Hall defended the plan.

"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,” he said.

Tom Watson, shadow culture secretary and deputy Labour leader, said: "It is an outrage that this Government is overseeing the scrapping of free TV licences for three million older people, leaving a Tory manifesto promise in tatters.”

Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: "If this scheme goes ahead we are going to see sick and disabled people in their eighties and nineties who are completely dependent on their cherished TV for companionship and news, forced to give it up.

"Means-testing may sound fair but in reality it means at least 650,000 of our poorest pensioners facing a big new annual bill they simply can't afford, because though eligible for Pension Credit they don't actually get it.

Jan Shortt, of the National Pensioners Convention, condemned the move.

"All the evidence shows Pension Credit is massively under-claimed, which means that in the future the very poorest pensioners will now miss out on their TV licence as well,” she said.

But The Intergenerational Foundation, which aims to improve intergenerational fairness, said: "There is simply no reason why retired judges, lawyers, bankers and doctors should receive a free TV licence when younger generations are struggling financially.”