Pensioners told to pay up as free BBC TV licence ‘transition period’ for over 75s to end in July

Pensioners were given a grace period to make arrangements for payment due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but this will end on 31 July

Thousands of pensioners will receive letters from the BBC this month calling for them to pay their TV licence.

The ‘transition period’ ending free TV licences for all over-75s is due to end on 31 July, and 260,000 pensioners are still yet to pay, the corporation has said.

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The ‘transition period’ ending free TV licences for all over-75s is due to end on 31 July (Photo: Shutterstock)
The ‘transition period’ ending free TV licences for all over-75s is due to end on 31 July (Photo: Shutterstock)

At a glance: 5 key points

- Pensioners were given a grace period to make arrangements for payment due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but this will finish at the end of the month.

- The free licence fee for over-75s was initially set to end in August last year, but it was delayed to ensure the elderly would have access to all of the health announcements over the course of the pandemic.

- Only those who are in receipt of pension credit do not have to pay.

- The BBC said more than nine in 10 over-75s households have now made arrangements for a free or paid TV licence, or have updated it on any changes in their circumstances in line with the wider UK population.

- The corporation said it will provide information about the next steps to take in the letters which will be sent out this month, along with where to seek support and advice.

What’s been said

In a statement, the BBC said: “As we have now reached a situation where over-75s households are in line with the general population, the extended transition period we put in place due to Covid-19 will end on 31 July 2021.

“And in line with general policy, anyone who watches or records live TV programmes on any channel, or downloads or watches BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer, must be covered by a valid TV licence.”

BBC director-general Tim Davie previously signalled that over-75s will not be threatened with legal action over non-payment.

The corporation added that it will be providing ‘customer care visits’ after the July deadline for those ‘who require further assistance’.

However, the planned home visits have been criticised by Lord Botham, who likened it to ‘threatening to send round the boys’ and ‘Orwellian language’, the Telegraph reports.

Background

The BBC is funded by the TV licence fee, which households across the UK are required to pay by law for watching or recording live television.

The licence is also required to receive video on demand programme services provided by the BBC via its iPlayer service.

The fee was first introduced by the Wireless Telegraphy Act in 1923, and in 1991 the BBC assumed the role of TV Licensing Authority with responsibility for the collection and enforcement of payment for the licence.

In January 2006, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) changed the classification of the licence fee from a service charge to a tax.

The standard TV licence fee increased by £1.50 in April, taking it from £157.50 per year to £159 annually - a rise of around 43p per day.

The fee is collected by the BBC and primarily used to fund the radio, television and online services of the BBC itself.

Anyone who watches or records live TV without the licence is considered a ‘TV licence evader’ and can face criminal prosecution.

The maximum penalty for anyone who doesn’t pay their licence fee is £1,000 but if the person refuses to pay the fine they can be imprisoned.

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