The BBC has announced today that it will end free TV licenses for over-75s on 1st August following a two-month delay due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This means that more than three million households across the country will additionally be asked to start paying the full licensing fee of £157.50 and only households where someone receives the Pension Credit benefit will still be eligible for a free TV licence.
The highly-controversial change was originally due to take effect on 1st June.
The BBC has stated today that this delay has already cost the corporation £35m a month and “could have reached £1bn a year over time with an ageing population”, after previously warning that making no changes in the wake of the pandemic would lead to “unprecedented closures” of services.
There was a mass public outcry in 2019 when the BBC announced it would end the free TV licensing scheme for all but those receiving Pension Credit and more than 630,000 people signed a petition set up by Age UK which called on the Prime Minister to take action.
According to latest Government figures, almost 1.6 million people currently claim Pension Credit.
Speaking on the decision today, Sir David Clementi, Chairman at the BBC, said: “The decision to commence the new scheme in August has not been easy, but implementation of the new scheme will be COVID-19 safe [and] the BBC could not continue delaying the scheme without impacting on programmes and services.”
“Around 1.5 million households could get free TV licences if someone is over 75 and receives Pension Credit, and 450,000 of them have already applied. And critically, it is not the BBC making that judgment about poverty.”
“It is the Government who sets and controls that measure.”
“Like most organisations the BBC is under severe financial pressure due to the pandemic, yet we have continued to put the public first in all our decisions.”
“I believe continuing to fund some free TV licences is the fairest decision for the public, as we will be supporting the poorest oldest pensioners without impacting the programmes and services that all audiences love.”