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‘Choosing between eating & watching TV’: BBC under fire for making over-75s pay TV licence from August 1

‘Choosing between eating & watching TV’: BBC under fire for making over-75s pay TV licence from August 1

Critics have lashed out at the BBC for announcing it is scrapping its free licence fee for over-75s from August. The public broadcaster will means test old age pensioners to see if they will be entitled to a free TV licence.

The BBC pushed back its plans to halt free TV licences for millions in June because of the Covid-19 lockdown. Now, over-75s will have to pay the £157.50 annual fee from August 1 unless they receive Pension Credit. The BBC said that the delay cost it £35 million a month.

BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said that, “critically it is not the BBC making that judgment about poverty. It is the government who sets and controls that measure.”

He said that it was unable to continue delaying the scheme “without impacting on programmes and services.” “Around 1.5 million households could get free TV licences if someone is over 75 and receives Pension Credit, and 450,000 of them have already applied,” he explained.

Over-75s have received free TV licences since 2000, but the government passed the cost on to the BBC in a licence fee settlement deal in 2015.

The BBC announced its plan to scrap free licences in 2019 and was met with outrage, with over 630,000 signing a petition by charity Age UK calling on the prime minister to take action.

Labour’s Shadow Culture Minister Christian Matheson told the House of Commons on Thursday that many pensioners would be forced to “choose between eating and watching TV,” and said the BBC is “cutting jobs and content to pay for the cost of the licence dumped on them by the government.”

Culture Minister Matt Warman said that it was “deeply disappointing” that the BBC has “chosen to go down the path that they are apparently going down,” and said it got a “generous licence fee settlement.”

House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg called on the BBC to “be nice” to pensioners and let them continue to watch for free.

In February, the BBC announced it was cutting 450 jobs to save £80 million. In April, it increased the licence fee from £154.50 to £157.50.

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