Over-75s ‘may struggle with bills because of planned TV licence fee changes’

Age UK has urged the Government and the BBC to come to an agreement which keeps TV licenses free for over-75s.

Press Association
Last updated: 23 January 2020 - 12.10am

Hundreds of thousands of over-75s could struggle to pay utility bills because of planned changes to the TV licence fee system, according to Age UK.

From June, only low-income over-75 viewers who receive pension credits will be entitled to a free TV licence in a move that will be a “shock to the budgets of many older people”, a statement from the charity said.

Those that will be hit the hardest are older viewers “struggling on a low fixed income as well as many who are battling loneliness, ill health and disabilities”, according to the charity.

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Under the plans, around 3.7 million people could lose their free licence (Joe Giddens/PA)

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said: “All the evidence is that if the BBC’s plan goes ahead, hundreds of thousands of over-75s will struggle to pay for their TV licence.”

She added that the extra expense would be a “bridge too far” for many and some “whose incomes are only just above the line are set to face horrible decisions over whether they can afford to continue to watch TV at all”.

“It’s completely wrong to put the oldest people in our society through this,” she said.

Age UK said that TV offers many over-75s a “precious window on the world”, a “means of staying informed and entertained” and “companionship”.

The BBC and the Government should “broker a solution” that ensures over-75s are still given a free licence, according to Ms Abrahams.

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Boris Johnson said he is ‘looking at’ abolishing the licence fee (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Conservative election manifesto said that they “recognise the value of free TV licences for over-75s and believe they should be funded by the BBC”.

However Lord Tony Hall, the outgoing director-general of the BBC, has previously argued that it is the Government who is withdrawing the benefit.

Additionally, the BBC has said it cannot afford to take on the financial burden of the TV licences, which cost £154.50 per year, from the Government.

The corporation’s bosses revealed in June that they expect the cost of the burden to be £745 million.

The new rules could mean up to 3.7 million pensioners in the UK would no longer receive a free licence.

TV Licence
Lord Hall has said it is the Government who is withdrawing the benefit (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

More than 630,000 have previously signed an Age UK petition calling for free TV licences for older people to be saved.

Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he is “looking at” the possibility of abolishing the licence fee.

He added: “How long can you justify a system whereby everybody who has a TV has to pay to fund a particular set of TV and radio channels – that is the question.”

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