Any household that is home to someone aged over 75 who has their income topped up by Pension Credit will be eligible for a free TV licence, and BBC Director-General Tony Hall has estimated that 1.5 million households could qualify.
However, under the new rules the remainder of over-75s will have to pay, with research by the House of Commons Library suggesting that 3 million households will lose their free licences.
Free TV licences for the over-75s were introduced in 1999 by then Labour chancellor Gordon Brown and were subsidised by the government.
But in 2015 Conservative chancellor George Osbourne decided that the subsidy would be phased out by 2020, leaving the BBC with a £745m annual bill if it maintains free licences for all over-75s. That constitutes a fifth of its budget, the same amount it spends in total on running and making programmes for channels BBC2, BBC3, BBC4, BBC News, CBBC and CBeebies.
The BBC estimates that its new proposal will cost it around a third of that, about £250 million per year, enabling it to avoid channel closures.
Its not the BBC’s fault that they are having to charge the licence fee to over 75s. The government used to fund this, but they decided they didn’t want to. The BBC found it had the choice between funding the free licences itself or cutting programmes/channels. #TVLicence@BBC
I know there are some pensioners who can afford the Licence Fee, but there are loads who can’t. In any case, what kind of society are we to deny older and often housebound people the joy of free television? Shameful. Should never have been dumped onto the BBC #LicenceFee
Others lay the blame at the BBC’s door, suggesting there are other areas where savings could be made.
Disappointed that the BBC are scrapping free TV licences for everyone over 75. Many of them may be isolated or lonely and their television is important to them. If the BBC have funding issues, they should look at the salaries of their biggest celebrities.https://t.co/paPx44mWCh
The BBC – expansionist, straying from its public service brief, ludicrously overpaying its senior staff – will deny millions of vulnerable elderly people a free TV licence and, therefore, a lifeline to the world. Not acceptable. #bbctvlicence
The BBC is axing free TV licenses for over-75s. Contribute to the UK your entire life & we won't even let you watch TV, unless you hand over a chunk of your pension. Pensioners must either go hungry or stare at a wall until they die.