BBC ordered to end TV licence ‘farce’ as over-75s’ revolt leaves £143m blackhole

Campaigners are accusing the BBC of hounding over-75s who refuse to pay their TV licence.

They claim the corporation repeatedly sends “threatening” letters to those rebelling against the scrapping of the freebie three years ago.

One elderly refusenik has been slapped with a staggering 28 enforcement letters, according to the Silver Voices campaign group.

Figures show that around 350,000 older people have resisted paying the annual £159 fee which was free to the over-75s until the BBC axed the concession in 2020.

Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices, said this means the corporation has been running a deficit of £143 million over the past three years.

READ MORE BBC licence fee revolt as 2.8 million Britons refuse to stump up £159

And he warned that the BBC’s “bullying” tactics would “poison” public opinion in the wider debate over the future of of the TV licence.

He called on under-pressure BBC director-general Tim Davie to “put and end to this farce”.

“The implementation of this cruel policy of scrapping free licences for senior citizens is a travesty,” he said.

“The BBC continues to waste millions of reams of paper threatening dire action against the refuseniks, when it knows that it cannot prosecute any over-75s because of the political storm it would create.

“A touch of realism and honesty from Mr Davie would be welcome to put an end to this farce, and the BBC should reconvene discussions with the Government and Silver Voices to find a constructive solution, before it poisons the debate around the future of the licence fee system.”

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The Daily Express revealed earlier this year how the proportion of viewers failing to pay the TV licence went up by 1.35 percent in 2021/22. The main reason for the jump was the free licence for over-75s being scrapped.

The corporation sparked a furious backlash when free TV licences for most over-75s were scrapped in August 2020.

Only those in that age bracket who receive the pension credit benefit are eligible to tune in for free.

When the BBC ended its licence fee grace period for over-75s in July 2021, 260,000 pensioners still had to pay.

But no prosecutions against the older people who previously held a free licence have been authorised so far.

The BBC pays for more than 947,000 free licences for over-75s who are on Pension Credit and eligible over-75s living in an Accommodation for Residential Care schemes, whether or not they receive Pension Credit.

The corporation said it does not recognise the 350,000 non-payment figure. Pipa Doubtfire, Director of Revenue Management, TV Licensing said it was “completely erroneous”.

A TV Licensing spokesperson said: “More than 9 in 10 over-75s have made arrangements for a free or paid for licence, or updated us on a change in their circumstances, in line with the broader population.

“We are also helping people in need of extra support to remain correctly licensed, with advice and payment plans to help spread the cost of a licence which is frozen until 2024

“Prosecution is only ever a last resort and there have been no prosecutions against over-75s.”

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