TV licence: Dennis Reed criticises ‘stupid’ BBC plan
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“Meanwhile older people on the breadline are facing an impossible choice.
“Do they struggle to pay to keep their lifeline to the wider world and cut back on food or heating or do they give up their TV in order to survive.”
The BBC expects to have collected £400 million from the over 75s since last August. It increased the fee to £159 in April.
Silver Voices said the fight to restore the free licence will continue into the next election.
Director Dennis Reed said: “Scrapping the free licence benefit in the middle of a pandemic, when many older people have been lonely and isolated, has been a reputational disaster for both the BBC and the Government.
“Many senior citizens felt obliged to disconnect their aerials because they could not afford to pay and were so afraid of enforcement; and the mental health of thousands has definitely suffered.
“On the other hand, the determination shown by hundreds of thousands in continuing to fight to restore their benefit, for a whole year, has reawakened the electoral voice of the over 75s.
The National Pensioners Convention said an additional bill could push some people into financial hardship.
General secretary Jan Shortt said she was concerned most about viewers who are yet to pay because they cannot afford it.
“This is a group that is just above the pension credit limit threshold and they get no extra help, so they don’t get any assistance to pay any bills,” she said.
“They are already having to make decisions every day about how they spend their money and particularly in the winter when you have competing bills coming in for extra heating, and sometimes they have to make the decision whether they have a hot meal or put the fire on to keep warm.
“Then all of a sudden, they find there is another bill to be paid, which is their TV licence.
“That’s a group that is potentially going to fall into poverty now because of having to pay for their TV licence.”
A BBC spokesman said: “Nine out of 10 over 75 households have made arrangements and we are grateful for their support for the licence fee.
“We will continue to support the small group of older customers who are yet to get set up, which is why we have written to them outlining the simple steps they need to take.
“In addition, customer care visits, which will begin in autumn, have been carefully designed for those who may require further assistance. They are not enforcement visits and will be carried out by a specially trained customer care team.”
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