TV licence: Dennis Reed criticises ‘stupid’ BBC plan
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The BBC has increasingly come under fire over the cost of its TV licence and the decision to scrap concessions for the elderly in the UK. Since last August, only those receiving pension credit are exempt from paying the hefty bill.
But across the pond, in Italy, residents only pay €90 (£76) per year for their Rai state broadcasters channels, compared to the hefty £157.5 bill in the UK.
Over-75s in Italy still enjoy a free TV licence.
And to make things even bittier for Britons, the Italian government has recently introduced a so-called TV bonus, rewarding residents with a €100 voucher to update their TV model.
Talks about scrapping the TV licence altogether in Italy are resurfacing, after MPs in Parliament introduced a new draft law to scrap the current automatic payment taken for the licence from the households’ energy bill.
The law will be debated and voted on in September and is expected to spark a wider debate about switching to a subscription model for the state broadcasters.
In France, a TV licence costs €139 (£117) and most countries in the EU have either abolished their TV licences or never had one in the first place.
Prices among those that charge for one range between €36 per year (£30) in Greece and €160 (£135) in Ireland.
Only Germany, Austria and Denmark top the BBC’s bill, respectively with €210 (£177), €335 (£283) and €259 (£220) per year.
In the UK, The BBC introduced a temporary payment amnesty amid the pandemic.
However, they confirmed at the end of June that 3.6 million of the 3.9 million people aged over 75 who needed to pay £159 for an annual TV licence had done so.
Those left outstanding would receive letters to remind them and provide support.
Morgan Vine, head of policy and influencing at the charity Independent Age, said the extra financial outlay means Britain’s eldest risk “losing access to what is often their lifeline to the outside world”.
She added: “The decision to link free TV licences for the over 75s to Pension Credit will not do enough to protect low income older people’s access to television.”
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Maintaining the free service for the over-75s would have cost the BBC £745million, at a time when it faces competition from streaming platforms.
The BBC expects to have collected £400million from the over 75s since last August. It increased the fee to £157.50 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.
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