Belfast Telegraph

BBC licence fee decision will 'burden' huge numbers of pensioners, claims DUP's Paisley

 

Ian Paisley (Brian Lawless/PA)
Ian Paisley (Brian Lawless/PA)
TV licence fees had been under review (Anthony Devlin/PA)

DUP MP Ian Paisley has said the BBC is "burdening" a huge number of pensioners after taking the decision to scrap the universal provision of free TV licences for over-75s.

The BBC announced on Monday that free TV licence fees are to be means-tested.

Households without someone who receives Pension Credit will now have to pay for the licence.

Mr Paisley said: "There will be a suspicion that the BBC has taken the easy option. They have burdened a huge number of pensioners with this cost instead of looking at other options.

"We already know that 650,000 of the poorest pensioner households are eligible, but do not claim Pension Credit. We know therefore that these households will be forced to pay under this announcement.

"Passing this cost on to pensioners will not solve the real long-term issues facing the BBC however; that the licence fee has outlived its time. 

"Consumers have changed their viewing habits and how they purchase what they view but the BBC has failed to adapt to the modern broadcasting landscape."

The North Antrim MP added the decision will have an impact on many people who can "ill-afford" the extra financial burden.

Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady blamed the British government for the plans.

The Newry and Armagh MP said: "This is yet another example of the Tories penalising large sections of our society.

"This move could put the price of a TV licence beyond some pensioners which would increase isolation and have a negative impact on their mental health."

BBC Chairman Sir David Clementi said: "Linking a free licence for over 75s to Pension Credit was the leading reform option. It protects the poorest over 75s, while protecting the services that they, and all audiences, love. It is the fairest and best outcome. It is one we can implement and endorse. This is an outcome that is the fairest possible in difficult circumstances."

Parliament has previously agreed that the licence fee was the best way of funding the BBC over the course of the next Charter, which runs to 2028.

More than 90% of people use the BBC every week and 200,000 people took part in the Government's Charter consultation, with the vast majority of participants backing the licence fee, with only 3% in favour of subscription.

BBC director-general Tony Hall said the move was “not an easy decision”.

From June 2020 around 3.7 million households which previously received a free licence will now have to pay for one.

It is thought 1.5 million households will be eligible for the free licence under the new scheme, which will cost the BBC around £250 million by 2021/22 depending on the take-up.

Licence fees were being reviewed by the BBC, with the full cost of concession due to be passed to the corporation from government in June 2020.

Facing financial pressures and attempting to streamline, the BBC has said previously that shouldering the burden of free licences would “fundamentally change” the broadcaster.

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BBC director-general Tony Hall told MPs in 2018 that licence fees would be reviewed (Ben Stansall/PA)

 

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