I know the future of TV licences for the over 75s is important to many readers. It’s an issue we’re taking very seriously as well.
To explain the situation, currently all households with people over 75 are entitled to a free TV licence. This Government-funded scheme, which is expected to cost £745m by 2021/22, comes to an end next year. It is for the BBC to decide on any future scheme – and to pay for it.
We wanted to hear from everyone who has a view so, as part of the decision-making process, we undertook a three-month consultation. This closed on 12th February this year and we are currently analysing responses and hope to make a decision in June.
We know pensioner poverty is still an issue for some older people. We also recognise that by the end of the next decade the annual cost of the current concession will have risen to more than £1 billion, reflecting the fact the UK population is ageing as well as the impact of inflation.
Each option suggested had its own merits and consequences and we recognise that whatever the decision there are implications for the BBC – and for every licence fee payer, including older people.
The options we set out include copying the current scheme, but the cost of doing so (around a fifth of our budget) is equivalent to what we currently spend on bringing our audiences BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, CBBC and CBeebies. This would retain free TV licences for the over 75s but it would fundamentally change the BBC as our audiences currently know it.
There is also the option to restore the universal licence fee that existed in the past. This would avoid having to make significant cuts but would impact on those aged over 75, especially poorer pensioners, who currently don’t pay.
Or we could reform the scheme by, for instance, discounting the cost of a licence for older people, raising the eligible age, or introducing means-testing or some combination of options.
We have not made a decision. We wanted to hear what people think, and that’s why we’re now carefully looking at the responses before reaching a decision – one which takes into account all relevant considerations for the BBC in delivering its public service mission, for all our audiences and for the older members of our society.
Clare Sumner, Director of Policy, BBC