Defiant: Ian Barratt received a warning letter stamped ‘enforcement officer visit approved’
Demands from ‘BBC bullies’ ordering pensioners to pay for their TV licences have led to hundreds of readers proclaiming that they will never surrender and pay up.
The Mail on Sunday has been overwhelmed with emails and letters from over-75s who refuse to pay the new £159 annual levy – even if it means being sent to prison.
An army of TV Licensing enforcers will knock on the doors of more than a quarter of a million pensioners who have yet to purchase a licence from next month.
This follows letters demanding they pay up. Some are already being threatened with visits.
Last week, The Mail on Sunday reported how – masquerading as ‘customer care’ visitors – these doorstep enforcers will confirm that people have a TV and then order them to pay up.
This attack on the purse strings of the elderly and most vulnerable follows the scrapping of the free TV licence for over-75s by the BBC last August, although it gave them a year’s grace in the form of a ‘transition period’, which ended two weeks ago.
While most of the four million pensioners targeted have already paid up, a hard core of 260,000 are standing firm – refusing to be bullied into paying.
Failure to pay for a TV licence – required by law to watch live television on any channel – can lead to prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000. If payment is not forthcoming, the courts can imprison offenders.
Many pensioners are furious that the BBC has broken its previous promise to always provide a free TV licence for the elderly – most of whom earned this reward after a lifetime of payments.
Others, including 60,000 surviving on less than £180 a week, argue that they were not warned to budget for the extra fee and are already struggling under the weight of soaring energy and council tax bills.
There is also widespread anger at the huge ‘waste’ in the BBC – frittering licence fees on salaries of over £150,000 a year on at least 150 ‘senior leaders’ and presenters.
The BBC has also been widely criticised for its politically correct agenda. Examples include paying ‘creative diversity director’ June Sarpong £267,000 a year for a three-day week – on top of private earnings from corporate events, for which she charges £5,000 to £6,000.
Ian Barratt, from Maldon in Essex, is among those TV Licensing has targeted. The married 78- year-old found an ‘enforcement visit approved’ letter thrust through his letterbox a few days ago – with threats that an ‘enforcement officer’ could visit imminently.
The letter says: ‘Our officers visit an address every six seconds. Day. Evening. Even weekends. And if no one answers, they can come back.’
Ian, who is receiving treatment for cancer, says: ‘We must stand up to the BBC bullies. I am so incensed by its arrogant attitude towards pensioners. I am one of the lucky ones because I can pay.
‘But I am not going to surrender without putting up an almighty fight. No one bothered to consult people like me. They can throw me in jail if they wish.’
The retired journalist, married to Iris, 77, is restricting his viewing so he does not have to buy a licence.
This involves never watching any live TV, but sticking to catch-up or on-demand services such as ITV Hub, All4, My5, Now TV, Apple TV, Netflix and Amazon, as well as DVDs.
Licensing rules mean he cannot watch BBC iPlayer. He says ‘Not watching live TV or using BBC iPlayer means I am exempt from paying the licence fee, though that does not seem to cut the mustard with enforcers who continue to hound elderly people like me.’
TV Licensing – the payment collection arm of the BBC – is keen to distance itself from terms such as enforcers and debt collectors by slapping a ‘customer care’ label on the process, claiming staff are ‘specially trained in assisting older customers’ and that there is no ‘record of interview’.
This means that visits are not recorded, so cannot be used as evidence in court when chasing fees.
Yet it contradicts itself by using the term ‘enforcement visit’ in the letters it sent to some pensioners.
Roy Hubbarde, from Anstey in Leicestershire, is unimpressed by the way the Corporation is trying to hide the true purpose of the home visits.
He says: ‘Why are they describing someone knocking on my door demanding my cash as a ‘customer care visit’?
‘There is something rather sinister and Orwellian about this BBC approach.’
The married 76-year-old also questions the amount of money being spent in chasing pensioners for money.
According to Citizens Advice, the cost of a bailiff visit – called enforcement – is £235. So the cost of a TV Licensing enforcer’s visit could be more than the £159 debt being chased.
BBC CAN THROW ME IN JAIL – I WON’T GIVE THEM A PENNY
‘I have tried all my life to be an upstanding citizen, obeying rules. But the BBC enforcers can throw me in jail. My money was too hardearned to give the broadcaster one penny to waste. Let’s hope enough of us have the guts and backbone to fight this shameful outfit.’
Ann James, 82, Cornwall
‘The BBC continues to increase the six and seven figure salaries of already overpaid ‘talent’ – making paying this the responsibility of pensioners. We do not deserve to have enforcers on our doorsteps threatening us. If they come, we’ll politely say: ‘No, thank you.’
Marion Bailey, 81, West Somerset
‘The BBC has gone back on a promise. The problem is the broadcaster likes to spend the £3.5billion it gets from licence fees each year like water. Rather than wasting cash on non-jobs and gameshow prizes, it should budget more carefully.’
Christopher Roberts, 80, Northampton
‘The BBC has lost its independence and become a spokesman for ‘woke’. We want unbiased reporting and this is not what we get. So it can fine me £1,000 or throw me in jail – with three square meals a day and free TV.’
Alan Corbett, 80, Derby
‘I have informed the BBC that I will not be paying for the rubbish it spews out or for the ridiculous salaries paid to morons. So far no one has even bothered to reply. Bring it on. If enough stand up to this bully it will be interesting.’
Mike Hills, 77, St Neots, Cambridgeshire
‘My plan is to invite any ‘customer care’ enforcer who knocks on the door to come in for a chat. I will offer them a cup of tea – my own caring side – and tell them I intend to record our conversation. I wonder what they will say?’
Chris Dobbins, 79, Norwich
Roy says: ‘BBC founder Lord Reith said its aim was to inform, entertain and educate. But since those fine words, the BBC has totally lost the plot. I refuse to pay for its ‘woke’ agenda and, if needs be, I look forward to watching TV for free in prison.’
Jan Shortt, general secretary of the campaign group National Pensioners Convention, is particularly fearful for the many thousands of retired people who are struggling to survive on incomes of about £180 a week – for whom this extra bill brings not just additional financial hardship, but tough decisions on how to spend their limited income.
She says: ‘For many elderly people who live on their own, the TV provides companionship – and can be a godsend. Sadly, far too many cannot afford the licence fee.’
Shortt points out that an estimated 1.5million households are eligible for a free licence because they receive Pension Credit – but only about 800,000 have so far applied.
The benefit can be claimed if the income of a single pensioner is less than £177.10 a week, or £270.30 for a couple. If Pension Credit is used to top up income to this level, it enables pensioners to be eligible for a free TV licence.
The BBC told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Now the transition period is over, our focus is to continue to support everyone to become correctly licensed.
‘We appreciate there is a small group that have not yet made arrangements, which is why we have written to them setting out simple steps to take to get set up. It includes a range of payment options to spread the cost.’
It added: ‘Customer care visits are planned to begin in the autumn, aimed solely to assist people to become correctly licensed. These will be carried out by members of staff specially trained in assisting older customers.’
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