The BBC is to axe millions of free TV licences for the elderly – and the news has had a mostly negative response.
A RadioTimes.com poll of over 700 readers has found that 65.4% of respondents were against the decision, which will means test free TV licences for over 75s from June 2020. Currently, these viewers receive a free licence regardless of income.
Comments sent in to the RadioTimes.com Facebook page reflect this response, with many voicing their opposition to the move. For instance, while Lee Phillips said the elderly “should be treated with respect” and “it’s now time we looked after them”, Kathryn Rimmington said that it should be down to the government alone to carry the “financial burden”.
Many had family members that would be affected by the change.
Conversely, many argued it was a pragmatic move in the face of a strained financial situation for the BBC.
And some claimed the move would be actually fairer for everyone, Stephen Jones asking: “why should pensioners who are rich get a benefit which a poor parent etc has to pay for[?]”. Many also said the move didn’t go far enough, arguing that the licence fee should be scrapped completely.
Free TV licences for the over-75s were introduced in 1999 by former Labour chancellor Gordon Brown and were subsidised by the government.
However in 2015, the Conservative government said the subsidy would be phased out from 2020. If it maintains free licences for all over-75s, it would leave the BBC with a £745m annual bill.
Over-75s not on Pension Credit will be required to pay the licence fee from June 2020.