New BBC Director General Tim Davie said the organisation could “not afford” to defer payments for the pensioners stripped of their free TV licence despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He instead pointed told Silver Voices campaign director Dennis Reed, who called for the amnesty, more and more over-75s were actually signing up to secure a TV licence.
In a letter seen by The Mirror, Mr Davie said: “More and more people are now getting a licence – now over three million – including 2.34 million who have paid and over 700,000 who have claimed free licences.
“When COVID first started it cost the BBC around £70million to delay the new policy by two months.
“This was absolutely the right thing to do so that we could put in place a COVID safe system where no one had to leave their home going forward.
“We could not afford to defer the scheme for any longer without cutting programmes and services which would have affected everyone.”
The BBC has refused to back down over the TV licence for over 75s
Over 75s must now pay £157.50 unless they get Pension Credit
Mr Reed said he was “sad and disappointed” at the decision because he hoped the corporation would have allowed pensioners, who have not yet secured a licence, to enjoy six months of free television during the pandemic.
He added: “We are sad and disappointed that the director-general has chosen to ignore our request for a licence amnesty for the next six months.
“The mental health of senior citizens is already frayed by months of virtual isolation and to receive threatening enforcement letters during the lockdown may push some over the edge.”
Mr Davie’s decision comes despite the BBC boss recently admitting the corporation’s decision to axe free TV licences for millions of over-75s was “not a great look”.
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BBC boss Tim Davie has refused to buckle over calls for the taxpayer-funded corporation to give the over-75s until spring to pay their TV licences
In a scathing attack on the corporation he now represents, he previously said the BBC had charged the “least well off” to pay for “some of the most well off” – it’s highly paid presenters.
But he said he had backed the £157.50 charges despite recognising “no-one wants to be charging people money they were not paying”.
Speaking at a Royal Television Society talk, Mr Davie also admitted the corporation did not deliver “equally” to everyone in the UK.
He said “the BBC doesn’t deliver equally to everyone,” adding there were “certain bits of the country” that “don’t necessarily feel the BBC is for them”.
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BBC Director General Tim Davie said the organisation could “not afford” to defer payments
The free licences for over-75s had been due to end on June 1 but this was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic
The free licences for over-75s had been due to end on June 1 but this was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, from August 1, viewers aged 75-plus, who currently qualify for a free TV licence, must now pay £157.50 unless they get Pension Credit.
Around 900,000 people receive the credit yet 600,000 more are eligible and don’t claim it.
A BBC spokesman told Express.co.uk of the decision: “It was the Government that ended the funding of the over 75s licence fee.
“The BBC has made the fairest decision possible to support the poorest oldest pensioners so those over 75 and in receipt of Pension Credit will be able to claim a free TV licence from August paid for by the BBC.
“This would have meant closures of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5 Live, and a number of local radio stations, as well as other cuts and reductions.
“These closures would profoundly damage the BBC for everyone, especially older people who use the BBC the most.
“The decision to start the new scheme in August has not been easy but delaying the introduction of the scheme has cost the BBC over £70 million and we cannot afford to delay any further without further impacting programmes and services which are already being cut back due to our savings programmes.”