Culture&Arts

The over-75s TV licence fee debate so far

The over-75s TV licence fee debate so far

Plans announced by the corporation this week mean, from June 2020, only low-income households will not have to pay.

"With Northern Ireland not having a government I'm afraid they'll bring in council tax or something like that and I don't know how we'd live if they brought that in".

"And I think taxpayers now expect the BBC to do the right thing".

Reacting to the BBC's announcement that from next summer free TV licences for over-75 will be means tested, Advice NI has urged older people across Northern Ireland to check if they are eligible for pension credit.

Charity Age UK branded the policy a "cruel move", saying: "Lots of older people have struggled throughout their working life to save a little extra for retirement. I do understand that the BBC are between a rock and a hard place". "Those were the words of the director-general of the BBC after the deal in 2015. I've met lots of older people during my time visiting, for Age UK, and I do know that a lot of people's lifeline is watching the telly".

Mr Fogle said he was "disappointed" in the decision, arguing: "Let's not penalise those who most value the BBC".

The broadcaster said the futures of networks including BBC2 and BBC4, as well as radio stations, would have been at risk had the licences continued to be provided for nothing. "TV is all some of the elderly have in their lives". "I think the government forced their hand".

"My grandparents loved the BBC and would have been lost without their TV, but if they were alive today they could have afforded a TV licence".

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He added: "Why has the Government passed on what is essentially a welfare benefit to a media broadcaster?"

Many older people in Northern Ireland fear the scrapping of free TV licences for over-75s is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of cutbacks that will impact them.

A number of petitions have been launched to try and keep the TV Licence free for over-75s, with one by charity Age UK attracting more than 142,000 signatures.

Tory PM hopeful Esther McVey spoke out against the criminalisation of non-payment, tweeting: "The BBC has abandoned its promise to give free TV licences to over 75s".

According to BBC Chairman Sir David Clementi, while many viewers voiced support for the Government's concession, there was also strong support for reform and least support for abolishing the concession entirely.

Only around 1.5 million households will be eligible for a free TV licence under the new scheme.

Ms Grahame says that at present some 40% of pensioners entitled to Pension Credit do not claim it, adding to the £10 billion each year which goes unclaimed in benefits of which 3.5 billion is unclaimed Pension Credit to which people are entitled.