BBC to start means-testing TV licence for over 75s from 1 August | Major Businesses | Business
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After postponing its controversial decision in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the BBC has confirmed that it will end offering free TV licences to all UK households with people over 75 from 1 August 2020.
BBCannualplan 29Mar2018
Since 2000, all UK households with people over 75 have been entitled to a free TV licence. Up until 2015 the scheme had been paid for by the state, but at that time the then David Cameron-led UK government decided to pass on this burden to the BBC and through an Act of Parliament, the UK government gave the BBC the power to decide what would happen next.

Yet in June 2019, in a move that caused uproar among those that will be affected, the BBC revealed that its scheme offering free TV licences for all those in the UK aged over 75 would come to an end in June 2020. Explaining the decision, BBC Director General Tony Hall noted that after June 2020, the cost of continuing with free licences for all over 75s would be £745 million a year and rising, around a fifth of the BBC’s budget. He added that if the BBC were to meet the increased costs, it would result in a swingeing set of reductions that would in practice mean the closures of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland Channel and Radio 5live in addition to a number of local radio stations.

Yet in as the Covid-19 outbreak was rapidly accelerating, the BBC said that it did not want anyone to be worried about any potential change and its was ‘fully-focussed’ on delivering its services to the public at what it somewhat euphemistically called ‘a difficult time.

Now as lockdown restrictions are relaxed throughout the country, the BBC has announced that only those households with someone aged over 75 who receives Pension Credit will be entitled to a free TV licence.

The BBC Board believes the new scheme is the fairest option to help the poorest pensioners. It is also the fairest option for all licence fee payers, as this means everyone will continue to receive the best programmes and services that the BBC can provide.

The new scheme will cost the BBC around £250 million by 2021/22 and will still require the BBC to divert some spending on programmes and services, alongside continuing to find new savings while expanding its commercial revenue to cope. The Corporation stressed that continuing with the Government scheme would have cost £745 million. In practice, this would have meant closures of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News channel, the BBC Scotland channel, BBC Radio 5 Live, and a number of local radio stations, as well as other cuts and reductions. It added that such closures would profoundly damage the BBC for everyone, especially older people who use the BBC the most.

“The decision to commence the new scheme in August has not been easy, but implementation of the new scheme will be Covid-19 safe,” said BBC Chairman, Sir David Clementi. “The BBC could not 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. And critically it is not the BBC making that judgement about poverty. It is the Government who sets and controls that measure.”

As the scheme moves forward, the BBC assured that it would do so with safety at its heart and that implementation of the new scheme would be Covid-19 safe. It said that nobody needed to take any immediate action, or leave their home, to claim for a free TV licence or pay for one.