Pensioners have turned out to protest against the taxpayer-funded corporation’s decision to renege on its deal struck with former George Osborne in 2015 to take on the cost of free licences for the over-75s. Members of the National Pensioners’ Convention have taken to the streets of London, Newcastle, Oxford, Norwich, Liverpool, Irvine and Belfast.
Members held banners saying “don’t switch us off” and “government should fund the over 75s TV licence – not the BBC”, while others ripped up their BBC TV licence bills in protest.
Speaking ahead of the rally, general secretary Jan Shortt said: “The free TV licence for all over-75s is a universal entitlement to supplement our poor state pension.
“To force people to find the money to pay for it now, particularly during the pandemic when they rely on their TVs for information, is just cruel.
“That is why the fittest and healthiest of our older members will put on their masks and gloves, and pop sanitiser in their pockets, to join static and socially distanced demonstrations countrywide.”
Part of the 2015 deal was for the government to block legislation brought forward by Tory MP Andrew Bridgen to decriminalise the licence fee which had won backing in Parliament.
The announcement that 3 million over-75s will be forced to pay and could also be dragged through the courts and sent to prison has heightened demands that the government decriminalises non-payment.
The free licences for over-75s had been due to end on June 1 but this was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
However, from August 1, viewers aged 75-plus, who currently qualify for a free TV licence, will have to pay £157.50 unless they get Pension Credit.
Around 900,000 people receive the credit yet 600,000 more are eligible and don’t claim it.