The BBC will delay TV licence fee changes for over-75s - here’s why

The BBC has announced it will delay its controversial decision to scrap free tv licences for over-75s.

The decision was made in light of the outbreak of coronavirus, to which this age group is especially at risk.

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When is the change delayed until?

The change was initially due to come into effect on 1 June but has now been put back until 1 August.

A joint statement from the BBC and the government said: "The BBC's priority over the coming period will be to do everything we can to serve the nation at this uniquely challenging time.

"Recognising the exceptional circumstances, the BBC board has therefore decided to change the start date of the new policy. Our current plan is to now bring it into place on 1 August. We will of course keep the issue under review as the situation continues to evolve."

It has been confirmed that the two-month delay will be paid for by the BBC itself.

How is the over-75 licence fee going to change?

Currently, those who are 75 years-old or older – which accounts for around 3.7 million people in the UK - are eligible for a free TV licence. This has been the case since 2000.

However, last year, the BBC announced that, as of June 2020, only low-income households where one person receives the pension credit benefit will still be eligible for a free licence.

This came after a 2018 report suggested that continuing to provide the free licences for the 2020/21 financial year could cost the BBC as much as £700 million.

In response, a petition was issued by Age UK, garnering over 630,000 signatures in its call for the Prime Minister to take action against the change.

Although the charity welcomed the delay, they also suggested that it may have come too late for many. Director Caroline Abrahams said "Unfortunately many over-75s will have already received a letter suggesting they get their pension credit letters photocopied at the local library or corner shop.

"This runs counter to the public health message the government seems likely to be giving older people very soon about staying at home to reduce their risk of infection, so it's important older people are informed that there's no need for them to take this action for now."

How much does a TV licence cost?

Currently, a TV licence costs £154.50 a year, or £52 for a black and white set.

In 2019, the licence fee raised almost £3.7 billion – accounting for about 76% of the BBC’s total income that year.

While many support scrapping reforming the TV licence, its existence is guaranteed until at least 2027 by the BBC’s Royal Charter.

However, the possibility of de-criminalising non-payment of the fee has been discussed. Currently, it is estimated that around 7% of households that require a licence do not have one.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, The i.