Scrapping free TV licence to affect 15,000 households

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock - Credit: Getty Images/Hemera

An estimated 15,000 households in North Somerset will lose their free TV licence once people aged over 75 are forced to pay the annual fee.

BBC bosses last week said it could not afford to continue waiving the licence fee for over-75s from 2020 - affecting approximately 3.7 million people across the UK.

The universal benefit was brought in by Labour 20 years ago.

However, the Conservative Government announced in 2015 it would hand the responsibility over to the BBC within five years.

The broadcaster estimates to continue the free licences would cost it £745million per year, and instead plans to limit the benefit to people on Pension Credit - costing it about £250million a year.

The alternative, it said, would be to put BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5live and local radio stations 'at risk'.

Colour licences cost £154.50 a year and there has been a negative reaction to the BBC's decision.

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A protest outside the BBC's Bristol office, in Whiteladies Road, was planned for this afternoon (Friday) and an online petition calling for the decision to be reversed has already begun.

Outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May expressed 'disappointment' at the BBC's decision.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: "Make no mistake, if this scheme goes ahead we are going to see sick and disabled people in their eighties and nineties who are completely dependent on their cherished TV for companionship and news, forced to give it up.

"Means-testing may sound fair, but in reality it means at least 650,000 of our poorest pensioners facing a big new annual bill they simply can't afford, because, though eligible for Pension Credit, they don't actually get it.

"The BBC's decision will cause those affected enormous anxiety and distress, and some anger too, but in the end this is the Government's fault, not the BBC's.

"It is open to a new Prime Minister to intervene and save the day for some of the most vulnerable older people in our society, who will otherwise suffer a big blow to their pockets and to their quality of life."

Labour blames the Tories for the change, highlighting Boris Johnson's tax cut aim for people earning more than £80,000 per year should he become Prime Minister, as a sign it will not protect society's most vulnerable.