BBC slammed for ‘doing nothing’ to tackle cost-of-living crisis

BBC licence fee 'needs to be scrapped' says TalkTV caller

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The BBC has been slammed for “doing nothing” to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, as the row over the licence fee continues to simmer. Pensioners’ campaign group Silver Voices has hit out at the broadcaster for charging over-75s, saying it should be “doing a lot more” to “help those in genuine need of support”. Silver Voices director Dennis Reed told that many pensioners “genuinely can’t afford to pay the licence fee”.

He asked what the BBC is doing as a “compassionate contribution” to support pensioners in the cost of living crisis, noting that some “broadband providers are providing social tariffs for those in hardship”.

Mr Reed continued: “The BBC is doing nothing, they just charge £159 fee to everyone, no matter what their circumstances are.

“So a millionaire who’d decides they’re not going to pay the fee is prosecuted, but exactly the same threats are levied on poor households who genuinely can’t afford to pay for it.”

He added: “The BBC should be doing a lot more. It should engage with organisations to work out how to help those in genuine need of support.

“They should be far more sympathetic towards people’s circumstances. For example, we think that households with people with dementia in them should be exempt from paying licence fee.”

Free licence fees for over-75s were scrapped two years ago. Although the BBC has held back from prosecuting over-75 refuseniks, its licensing officials have continued to send “threatening” letters.

And for over 60s, TV Licensing insists it only prosecutes as a “last resort” and it offers other options before taking court action.

Mr Reed said: “Over 75s who have been unable to pay the £159 TV licence fee since their free licences were scrapped two years ago continue to receive threatening letters on a regular basis, stating variously that they are under investigation, or can expect a doorstep visit, or may be subject to a £1,000 fine.

“One Silver Voices member has received 13 such letters over the period, all of which he reliably tells me have ended up in recycling.”

During the summer Tory leadership campaign Rishi Sunak hinted he was willing to scrap the TV licence fee.

Earlier this year, the Government announced the £159 licence fee will be frozen for the next two years but said its future is up for review.

But the annual bill will continue until at least 2027 when the BBC’s royal charter is up for renewal.

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Options to replace it will include subscription models or linking it to another household bill.

But previous attempts to find a new funding model have failed to get off the ground.

A TV Licensing spokesman said: “We are doing all we can to help people and offer support.

“We work with groups throughout the UK which assist people who fall into financial difficulty, and we have payment plans available to help spread the cost, including our Simple Payment Plan designed for people who need extra support.

“Prosecution is only ever a last resort and no enforcement or prosecutions against over-75s who previously held a free licence have been authorised.”

The BBC has been approached for comment. 

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