The BBC has announced that it is to means test over-75s to decide whether they are eligible for a free TV licence.
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.
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The news has led to a backlash on social media with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn among those accusing the Conservative party of ‘failing’ pensioners.
Pensioners are being failed by the Conservatives. Their 2017 manifesto promised to keep TV licences free for the over-75s – they must not go back on their word now.https://t.co/BDoMGlX57j
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 10, 2019
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
— Douglas Ross MP (@Douglas4Moray) June 10, 2019
But some believe forcing the BBC into budgetary cuts could be the thin end of the wedge for a valued institution.
God no, I love the advert-free BBC. BBC radio is worth the licence fee alone. Lets not let these people destroy it! https://t.co/KwE1QRL2ry
— Dinah Winch (@DinahSW) June 10, 2019
What do you think of the BBC’s decision to means test free TV licences for over-75s?