Dear Sir Oliver
We thought it would be helpful to send you some further information to help you respond to questions you may be getting about the BBC’s recent announcement on over 75s TV licences and how we will be implementing the decision - what we are doing to support all older pensioners make this transition.
First the BBC has taken how we implement this new scheme very seriously. We know it’s a big change for people and we want to make it easy and simple.
Television Licensing will be writing to all over 75 households – nobody needs to do anything now – their free licence will remain in place until 31 May 2020.
We’ve announced the decision a year in advance to give people time to think about it and then prepare. We are very conscious that we need to make this easy and accessible to all.
We are going to provide more telephone support and personal contact through outreach visits to community centres, for example, because we appreciate this group may need and want more support.
The BBC has also started running an information campaign on radio and will continue to communicate widely so that people know about the new arrangements.
The BBC is aware that individuals may prefer a family member or representative to deal with the TV Licence on their behalf and those mechanisms are already in place in TV Licensing.
For those who will now have to pay we recognise that to pay the whole amount up front may be difficult so we will introduce a new payment plan so that people can make smaller payments – around £6 every fortnight – so spread out over the year which we hope will make it easier for people.
There have been a number of stories where people have raised concerns about how they are going to comply with the new arrangements. We are going to make it as easy as possible for people to pay and make sure we support them during the transition. We have a higher compliance rate than other countries and as we have set out clearly enforcement action of any kind is always a last resort for the BBC.
For those on pension credit, people will just have to provide evidence of receipt of pension credit – such as a letter – passporting is a tried and tested way to do this used by the public and private sectors.
We’ve written to charities and older people’s groups to work with them to make this as easy as possible for everybody and also look at how to make sure people are aware of how they can get a free TV licence via Pension Credit.
We think that working together it is likely that pension credit take-up will rise.
We will also be encouraging people to contact DWP if they think they are eligible for Pension Credit and how other organisations can support them in their applications.
That will be a good thing. New pension credit claimants could get around £2500, as well as then other benefits, including a free TV licence.
The Government decided to stop funding free TV licences for all over 75s from June 2020.
Parliament - under the law - then gave the BBC the power to decide the future and consult. The difference is any funding would have to come from the BBC’s budget for programmes and services.
We consulted - over 190,000 people took part, the largest consultation the BBC has ever run, and there was a small majority who wanted to change the concession and many who felt strongly that the concession should continue. There was little support for abolishing the concession.
Many raised pensioner poverty and social isolation as key concerns, others raised concerns about cuts to the BBC and there was little public appetite to cut BBC services.
The BBC decided that the fairest thing to do is protect the poorest older pensioners - that is why we have decided to provide free TV licences to over 75s who receive Pension Credit. This will cost the BBC around £250 million, about 6% of the budget.
We believe this is the fairest thing to do for all licence fee payers - as the overall cost of £745 million and rising would lead to profoundly damaging cuts and closures of key BBC services including BBC Two, BBC Four, Radio 5 Live, the Scotland Channel and some local radio stations.
As we set out in the BBC’s decision document, the BBC Board’s view is that it is a matter for Government whether, in the light of the BBC Board’s decision, Government would now wish to pay the additional costs to ensure that all over 75s could continue to receive a free TV licence. Or it could take back responsibility for the over-75s concession in its entirety, and pay for it in full.
With best wishes