Free TV licence for over-75s?

The BBC has started a consultation on free licences for over-75s

The Guardian

The Guardian view on the BBC and the elderly: a burden too far | Editorial

In retrospect, Gordon Brown’s 1999 giveaway of free TV licences to the over-75s, though doubtless well-intentioned, was a hostage to fortune. The cost of this benefit was shouldered by the Department for Work and Pensions, in turn moving a big chunk of BBC funding into the torrid world of political decision-making, away from its former position relatively insulated from arguments about government spending and cuts. This insulation was wise and deliberate: the founding fathers of the BBC in the 1920s – both within the corporation and the government – had foreseen the danger of arguments about the corporation’s financial arrangements becoming too closely embroiled in party politics. That, they foresaw, could imperil the BBC.

In 2015 the potential for disaster was realised. Conservative chancellor George Osborne decided the cost of free licences to the over-75s ought to be borne by the BBC itself – meaning a huge cut to its funds. Mr Osborne wanted the national broadcaster to know it was not immune to austerity. It had to do less, with less money. The move freed up resources for the DWP while punishing the “liberal” BBC. When the then culture secretary, John Whittingdale, conveyed the news of this decision, Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, told him it would be like dropping an atomic bomb on the corporation. The move would cost the BBC £750m by 2020. This equates, it is now calculated, to the combined annual budgets of BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, and the children’s services CBBC and CBeebies.

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Licence to thrill: how much does a TV licence cost, and what does it cover?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

“The only way I can afford to pay for my TV Licence is if I sell my hamster, is that what you want me to do?”

People will say anything to get out of paying their TV Licence. Among the creative excuses, one person admitted that they stole their TV, so why should they pay for a licence; another reasoned that because they own a Corgi, the favoured species of dog owned by the Queen, they didn't think it was necessary to own a TV Licence.

The Queen does not have to pay her licence fee, but other members of the Royal Family do.

However, they may not be laughing as licence fee dodgers could face a maximum fine of £1,000 plus any other legal costs and/or compensation.

Under the Communications Act 2003, it is illegal to watch or record programmes as they are being shown on TV or live on an online TV service.

The TV Licence is a tax collected by the BBC to fund their TV, radio and online output.

Currently, the licence fee costs £150.50 (or £50.50 for a black and white television set). The licence fee is provided for free to over 75s by the Government. There are still 7,000 UK households watching television through black and white sets more than 50 years after the advent of colour programming, the Guardian reports. The highest number of people watching black and white TV is in London (1,768), followed by the West Midlands (431) and Greater Manchester (390).

As long as you do not watch or record live TV, you do not need a licence. The Plymouth Herald lists the services you can use on your TV without paying the licence fee:

  • On demand – including catch-up TV and on demand previews – through services like ITV Player , All4 , My5 , BT Vision/BT TV , Virgin Media , Sky Go , Now TV , Apple TV , Chromecast , Roku and Amazon Fire TV

  • On demand movies from providers like Sky, Virgin Media, BT Vision, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video

  • Recorded films and programmes either from a disc (e.g. DVD or Blu-ray) or downloaded from the internet

  • On demand internet video clips through services like YouTube

Over £3.8 billion was collected from licence fees between 2017 and 2018, making up 75.7 per cent of the BBC's total income. The government provided £655.3 million - or 17.1 per cent - for those over the age of 75.

Hamsters, corgis and indeed illegally obtained television sets do not make you immune from the TV Licence. The creativity should be kept for the programmes on the box, and not the excuses for failing to cough up.

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The Scotsman

Minister urges BBC to continue free TV licences for over-75s

The BBC has been urged by the Government to continue providing free TV licences for the over-75s.

The Government-funded scheme, which provides free TV licences to older viewers, comes to an end in June 2020.

The BBC has launched a consultation exercise on its future but warned that continuing with the scheme could cost around a fifth of the budget.

At question time in the Lords, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport minister Lord Ashton of Hyde confirmed that responsibility for the concession would transfer to the BBC in 2020.

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