The BBC has announced that it will put an end to its tradition of free TV licences for over-75s. Instead, a new ‘Covid-19 safe’ scheme will be rolled out from August 2020.
This is everything you need to know about the new scheme - and how viewers over the age of 75 will be affected.
What is the new scheme?
The new scheme will end the current arrangement of free TV licences for over-75s - although some are still eligible for a BBC funded TV licence.
The BBC initially delayed this change as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The new scheme will cost the BBC around £250 million by 2021/22 - by comparison, the old scheme would have cost the BBC around £745 million.
In a statement from the BBC, it’s explained that this would have meant “closures 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.”
What has the BBC said?
BBC Chairman Sir David Clementi said that “the BBC could not continue delaying the scheme without impacting on programmes and services” and that the decision to move forward with this new scheme “has not been easy”.
Clementi commented, “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 to the public, as we will be supporting the poorest oldest pensioners without impacting the programmes and services that all audiences love.”
In a statement from the BBC, it was also explained that the government decided to stop funding free TV licences in 2015 and that through legislation, parliament gave the responsibility to the BBC Board to make decisions on concessions for TV licences.
Who is still eligible for a free TV licence?
Under the new scheme, those who are aged 75 and over and in receipt of Pension Credit are eligible for a free TV licence funded by the BBC.
Clementi said, “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 judgement about poverty. It is the government who sets and controls that measure.”
How do I claim a free licence - or how do I pay?
The new scheme will come into effect on 1 August 2020, with people aged 75 or over remaining fully covered by their existing free licence until 31 July.
“No one will be expected to pay for a new licence until they have been contacted by letter from TV Licencing and claimed a free licence or agreed a payment plan,” the BBC said.
The implementation of the new scheme is described as ‘Covid-19 safe’, which means that no-one needs to take any immediate action or be required to leave their home in order to claim a free licence or to pay for one.
All over-75 licence holders will be written to with clear guidance regarding the new scheme.
For those who find themselves now needing to pay for a licence, there is a range of options to choose from which includes paying weekly, fortnightly or monthly, so you don’t have to pay the fee all in one go.
What has the response been like?
When the news was initially announced in 2019 that the BBC would be ending the free TV licences for over 75s, there was significant backlash.
Now that the new scheme is moving forward, similar outcry has occurred across social media.
One person tweeted, “For a lot of over 75s, TV is the only company they have! Disgusting move by @BBC @BorisJohnson #BBC.”
“Dear BBC, the repercussions of charging over 75s in the UK for a TV Licence is not only disgusting, it’s going to increase Mental Health Issues. Increase issues with Dementia, Anxiety and Depression,” wrote another.
Another said, “How awful! Over half of all people aged 75 and over live alone, they shouldn’t have to pay for a small comfort to them.”