House of Lords member and former professional cricketer Ian Botham has demanded the BBC reverse their decision to scrap free TV licences for over 75s, accusing the organisation of “terrorising” pensioners into paying the required fees.
This comes after the BBC announced back in 2019 that TV licences would no longer be free for those aged 75 and over. All households are therefore required to now pay an annual fee of £157.50 (roughly 179 euros), which covers the cost of watching live TV as well as on-demand shows on BBC iPlayer.
Writing for The Telegraph on Monday, Lord Botham said, “Many of this vulnerable age group live in remote areas and rely on the BBC, especially now that we are back in lockdown. Yet millions are having to dig into their pockets as the licence is now only free through means-testing.”
Botham said he has received roughly 2,000 emails over the past year from citizens concerned about the revoking of the free TV licence for over 75s. The ex-cricketer labelled these emails “frightening” and “saddening”, vouching to “stand up for the pensioners feeling terrorised by the BBC’s debt collector army.” One complaint message sent to Botham read: “My sister in 89 and suffers from dementia, she does not know what she is watching on TV. Yet because she is not on any benefits, she is made to pay for her viewing.” The plethora of messages sent to Botham led him to declare, “This is a scandal no one is talking about and it can’t be right that our oldest are on the front line.”
Campaigns such as ‘Defund The BBC’ have also picked up momentum since the licence fee rules were amended in 2019. With over 100,000 followers on Twitter, the campaign goes one further than Botham, aiming to decriminalise non-payment of the TV licence altogether, allowing all people in the UK to freely enjoy the television they wish to watch.
Others see no issue with the television licence fee being extended to over 75s. Melissa is a former home-visitor for the charity ‘Age UK’, and told The Lens: “I understand what Ian Botham is saying, television is a comfort for so many elderly people, but most can afford it. There’s such a huge safety net for pensioners and their incomes, so I personally don’t think they need a free licence. It’s not end of the world.”
Following such campaigns, the official TV Licensing website has insisted that over 75s now required to make monthly payments for such a licence should not be worried. The site stated in a press release that these individuals will be “supported through the changes” and will personally be written to “with clear guidance about how to pay.”