FURIOUS campaigners have ripped up BBC bills during protests across the country in a last-ditch attempt to save the free TV licence.
BBC licence fee: Martin Lewis on end date for over 75 exemption
Pensioners have turned out to protest against the taxpayer-funded corporation’s decision to renege on its deal struck with former George Osborne in 2015 to take on the cost of free licences for the over-75s. Members of the National Pensioners’ Convention have taken to the streets of London, Newcastle, Oxford, Norwich, Liverpool, Irvine and Belfast.
Members held banners saying “don’t switch us off” and “government should fund the over 75s TV licence – not the BBC”, while others ripped up their BBC TV licence bills in protest.
Speaking ahead of the rally, general secretary Jan Shortt said: “The free TV licence for all over-75s is a universal entitlement to supplement our poor state pension.
“To force people to find the money to pay for it now, particularly during the pandemic when they rely on their TVs for information, is just cruel.
Thousands of angry protestors have taken to the streets of the UK
Members of the National Pensioners’ Convention have taken to the streets of London, Newcastle, Oxford, Norwich, Liverpool, Irvine and Belfast
“That is why the fittest and healthiest of our older members will put on their masks and gloves, and pop sanitiser in their pockets, to join static and socially distanced demonstrations countrywide.”
Part of the 2015 deal was for the government to block legislation brought forward by Tory MP Andrew Bridgen to decriminalise the licence fee which had won backing in Parliament.
The announcement that 3 million over-75s will be forced to pay and could also be dragged through the courts and sent to prison has heightened demands that the government decriminalises non-payment.
The BBC is under pressure to scrap TV licence fees for over 75s
The free licences for over-75s had been due to end on June 1 but this was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, from August 1, viewers aged 75-plus, who currently qualify for a free TV licence, will have to pay £157.50 unless they get Pension Credit.
Around 900,000 people receive the credit yet 600,000 more are eligible and don’t claim it.
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Pensioners urged the BBC ‘don’t switch us off’
Campaigners ripped up their BBC bills in protest
It comes after reports suggested pensioners are also beginning a campaign to “gum up the works” and frustrate the BBC’s ability to process the payments.
Elderly people’s charity Silver Voices hope to tie the BBC up in red tape.
Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices, a group for senior citizens, said: “We’re calling this a ‘gum up the works’ campaign.
“The aim is to make the cost of enforcing and collecting the licence fee so great that the BBC will have to go to the government and get them to reinstate the free licence.”
A BBC spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “It was the Government that ended the funding of the over 75s licence fee.
“The BBC has made the fairest decision possible to support the poorest oldest pensioners so those over 75 and in receipt of Pension Credit will be able to claim a free TV licence from August paid for by the BBC.
“Continuing with the Government scheme would have cost £745 million a year, rising to £1 billion by the end of the decade.
“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.
“These closures would profoundly damage the BBC for everyone, especially older people who use the BBC the most.
“The decision to start the new scheme in August has not been easy but delaying the introduction of the scheme has cost the BBC over £70 million and we cannot afford to delay any further without further impacting programmes and services which are already being cut back due to our savings programmes.”
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