Published: Wed, June 12, 2019

Millions of over-75s lose free TV licence in BBC cost-cutting

Millions of over-75s lose free TV licence in BBC cost-cutting

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.

The BBC has said it will continue to provide TV licences to over-75s who can provide evidence that they claim pension credit, a means-tested benefit created to help older people.

The shift from government to the broadcaster was being phased in, with sole responsibility set to begin from 2020, when it was estimated to be due to cost the BBC around £725 million.

The deputy leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson has branded the burden placed on pensioners an "outrage", and activists for the elderly have warned that the move will directly impact the "sick and disabled".

Warning that older people who rely on TV for companionship will have found today's announcement "distressing", Mr Lynch said: "This is really disappointing news which will affect over 75,000 people over the age of 75 living in Northern Ireland".

"The BBC's decision will cause those affected enormous anxiety and distress, and some anger too".

Under the Conservatives in 2015, ministers announced that an agreement had been reached between the Government and the BBC, and the broadcaster would bear the cost.

The BBC will operate a self-verification system where individuals aged 75 or over, need to demonstrate their receipt of Pension Credit in order to qualify.

Conservative Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, said: "The ending of historically free TV licences for all those over 75, regardless of income, will mark a significant departure for the BBC and almost four million pensioners who don't pay for it. We want the BBC to look again at ways of supporting older people".

The BBC said the funding available for British services is already 24 percent lower than if the licence fee had gone up with inflation from 2010.

The BBC have said if they took on the cost of the free licenses, the extra cost would meant "unprecedented closures" across a number of channels.

The corporation consulted with 190,000 people. Equally it would not be right to maintain it in perpetuity given the very profound impact that would have on many BBC services. Whilst we know that pensioner incomes have improved since 2000, we also know that for some the TV licence is a lot of money.

Research from the House of Commons Library found that 3mn households would lose their free TV licence as a result of the decision.

"We have been clear that we expected the BBC to continue this concession".

But many people have called this "unfair" for pensioners who may struggle to afford this new charge.

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