Heartless’ BBC hounded more than 520,000 over-75s to pay for a TV licence as the pandemic deepened 

The BBC has been called ‘heartless’ after pressuring hundreds of thousands of over-75s to pay for a TV licence as the Covid-19 pandemic deepened.

Figures obtained by the Mail show the BBC had sent 525,223 letters by the end of November last year, as the country went into a second lockdown.

The letters tell over-75s they either need to ‘arrange payment’ or apply for a free licence if they are entitled. 

The push to recoup licence fee cash is part of a controversial scheme which has stripped millions of pensioners of their free licences. It is now restricted to those who receive Pension Credit.

The BBC has been called ‘heartless’ after pressuring hundreds of thousands of over-75s to pay for a TV licence as the Covid-19 pandemic deepened (stock image)

The BBC has been called ‘heartless’ after pressuring hundreds of thousands of over-75s to pay for a TV licence as the Covid-19 pandemic deepened (stock image)

The BBC has been called ‘heartless’ after pressuring hundreds of thousands of over-75s to pay for a TV licence as the Covid-19 pandemic deepened (stock image)

The true number of ‘reminders’ sent out is thought to be much higher than 525,223, as the corporation carried on sending them out in December.

The letter was headed ‘a reminder to set up your next licence’ and said it was ‘important’ recipients ‘respond now’ and said if they did not ‘make arrangements’ for their licence then TV Licensing ‘may need to cancel it’. 

It said it would give them a ‘bit more time’ to make arrangements. A total of 4.2million free licences were being claimed when the scheme came into effect last August.

Tory MP Peter Bone (pictured) said: ‘You’ve got this state monopoly which is chasing elderly people at a time when they are having to deal with so many other issues. You would have to be pretty heartless to do that, wouldn’t you’

Tory MP Peter Bone (pictured) said: ‘You’ve got this state monopoly which is chasing elderly people at a time when they are having to deal with so many other issues. You would have to be pretty heartless to do that, wouldn’t you’

Tory MP Peter Bone (pictured) said: ‘You’ve got this state monopoly which is chasing elderly people at a time when they are having to deal with so many other issues. You would have to be pretty heartless to do that, wouldn’t you’

Figures show the number of households that have still not signed up to the new scheme is about 700,000. This was higher when the letters were sent out. Many of these are said to include over-75s who refuse to pay.

Dennis Reed, of senior citizens’ membership organisation Silver Voices, said: ‘It just shows their complete lack of sensitivity and empathy with the plight, particularly of older people, who’ve been isolated in their own homes for a very long period of time.’

Tory MP Peter Bone said: ‘You’ve got this state monopoly which is chasing elderly people at a time when they are having to deal with so many other issues. You would have to be pretty heartless to do that, wouldn’t you.’

The Government had been looking at plans to decriminalise TV licence fee evasion.

But this week any immediate plans to replace the criminal sanction with a civil enforcement scheme were shelved.

 A TV Licensing spokesman said: ‘Over 80% of older customers have made arrangements since August and we continue to process applications. In this time we have sent one reminder to those left explaining the simple steps to take.

‘We are well aware of the ongoing challenges people are facing because of coronavirus which is why we’re giving people more time to get set up.’

 

How did we get here? 

The BBC introduced its over-75s scheme last August, stripping millions of pensioners of their free TV licences. Only those on Pension Credit are continuing to get the free licences.

It came after the corporation agreed to take over the responsibility for funding the free licences for over-75s from the Government in 2015. It then said to carry on with the scheme would have cost it £745million a year which – a fifth of its budget – and would have risked it closing a number of services. The BBC said this new scheme will still cost around £250million a year by 2021/22.

More than 630,000 people signed an Age UK petition in protest when the plans were announced.

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