Households in the UK where someone aged over the age of 75 receives the Pension Credit will continue to receive a free TV licence.
The BBC has confirmed the new scheme will begin on August 1 this year following approval by the BBC Board. It has been delayed as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.
The announcement met with predictable criticism including the head of the government DCMS Committee Julian Knight who blamed the move on a “poor decision” by the outgoing director-general Tony Hall. ““At what is already a very difficult time, this will be a body blow to millions of British pensioners. I had hoped that the previous delay announced would lead to the government and BBC coming together in order to thrash out a fresh deal. However, that has clearly not happened.”
The statement is a long way from one of Mr Knight’s predecessors who in November last year said: “The BBC finds itself here as the result of a deal done behind closed doors that allowed no transparency for licence fee payers. Detailed minutes which would have shone a light on the crucial decision making process are absent or incomplete which is a matter of great regret,” said Chair of the DCMS Committee Damian Collins MP.
TV Licensing, which administers the £157.50 Licence Fee, will be writing to all over 75 licence holders with clear guidance on what to do next. The BBC says no one needs to take any immediate action, or leave their home, to claim for a free TV licence or pay for one.
“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,” said BBC Chairman, Sir David Clementi. “And critically it is not the BBC making that judgement about poverty. It is the Government who sets and controls that measure.”
The Conservative Government took the decision to stop funding for free licences in 2015.
The free Licence Fee scheme had only been introduced by the 2000 Labour Government.