The BBC has announced plans to start charging UK pensioners the annual £157.50 ($199) licence fee from August after delaying the change in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
British pensioners were originally meant to start paying the fee from June 1, but will now shoulder the cost from August 1 after the BBC put in place measures to allow people to pay safely online and over the telephone.
The decision comes as the BBC has faced criticism for asking over 75s to contribute to its funding — even though it was a choice that was ultimately foisted on the broadcaster by the government in 2015.
There will be one notable exemption from the change in policy: those who receive a pension credit from the government will continue to benefit from a free TV license. This will cost the BBC £250M by March 2022.
The BBC said it could not afford another delay to charging over 75s. Postponing from June to August has contributed to a £125M funding shortfall, which has already resulted in redundancy proposals and cuts to BBC shows.
BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said: “The decision to commence the new scheme in August has not been easy, but implementation of the new scheme will be COVID-19 safe. The BBC could not continue delaying the scheme without impacting on programs and services.
“Like most organizations the BBC is under severe financial pressure due to the pandemic, yet we have continued to put the public first in all our decisions. I believe continuing to fund some free TV licenses is the fairest decision for the public, as we will be supporting the poorest oldest pensioners without impacting the programs and services that all audiences love.”
Julian Knight, the chair of the Parliamentary Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said the news was a “body blow” for British pensioners. “This mess is a result of a poor decision struck by the outgoing Director-General and now Britain’s pensioners are having to pick up the cost,” he added.
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