THE BBC has been warned it has just one week to secure its future, with its plans to end free TV licences for over-75s putting the corporation at risk.
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In a move which sparked outrage, the corporation announced last year it was scrapping the free licence for most over-75s. On August 1, they will be required to pay £157.50 a year for their TV licence.
Despite pleas for the BBC to reconsider, the corporation has so far refused to back down on its decision. With now just seven days until the fee is introduced, the BBC has been told it must reverse the charge’s planned implementation or risk putting its future in doubt.
Former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has warned the broadcaster could be mortally wounded, with public support for the corporation deteriorating following the introduction of the fee.
The Conservative MP, and founder of the influential Blue Collar Conservatism group, has accused the BBC of being “out of touch” with its decision to scrap the perk for older pensioners.
She told Express.co.uk: “I hope common sense kicks in to the BBC and it does do the right thing and continues to support the over-75s.
“Life always had a strange way of unravelling and if they don’t reverse their decision, it might be interesting to see where the public move to in their opinion of the BBC.”
Demanding the corporation maintain its commitment to public service broadcasting, she added: “I think the best thing that you could do to keep the public on board is to actually be a public service broadcaster and look after the people in this country who pay £5billion a year for the service.”
Last week Ms McVey’s Blue Collar Conservatives organised a letter sent to BBC Director-General Tony Hall criticising the plans to end the free TV licences.
Signed by 66 Tory MPs, the letter said: “When millions of elderly Britons have been asked to stay at home during the global COVID-19 crisis, the timing of this announcement could not have been worse.
The BBC has been warned the public’s support for the broadcaster could shift
Esther McVey has called for the BBC to use ‘common sense’
“Frankly, it is a kick in the teeth for millions of over-75s who have had a torrid time in lockdown.”
The campaign group Silver Voices also criticised the BBC’s decision, accusing the broadcaster of “living very dangerously”.
The group has called on all over-60s to take “direct action” by cancelling their direct debits for the licence fee payment and settle fees only by cheque in order to disrupt the payments system.
They warned many over-75s will simply refuse to pay the licence at all.
Warning of the unintended consequences, Dennis Reed, Director of Silver Voices, said: “Many younger people will probably adopt the same tactics in protest at the way older people have been treated and paying the licence will no longer have the consent of the public.”
He added: “There is little natural empathy for the BBC from the Netflix generation, so where will be their support in the coming round of negotiations on the future of the licence system?
BBC Director-General Tony Hall has been told the broadcaster looks ‘out of touch’
more than 60 MPs signed the letter to the BBC’s Tony Hall
“Most Silver Voices members naturally support a national public broadcaster, but the BBC is skating on very thin ice if it continues to take older people for granted and scraps an important welfare benefit.”
In June 2019, the BBC announced its decision to end free TV licences from June 2020.
It then postponed the introduction of the payment until August 1 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
From next month, only over-75s who receive Pensions Credit will be entitled to a free licence.
Free TV licences for older pensioners were first introduced by the Labour Government in 2001.
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Timeline of the development of over-75s licence fee payments
As part of the BBC’s Royal Charter renewal in 2015, the corporation agreed to take on full responsibility for funding the perk from 2020.
Earlier this month, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden described feeling “let down” by the BBC over its decision to abandon the commitment to free TV licences.
He said: “I very much regret the decision that the BBC has taken.
“We gave the settlement to the BBC back in 2015.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said he feels ‘let down’ by the BBC
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