The BBC will be scrapping universal free licences for the over 75s as of next year, saying fairness was at the heart of the decision.

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With great political timing, the BBC has announced today that it will be stopping the blanket provision of free TV licences to the over 75s and replacing it with a means tested system.

This is obviously a move designed to put the Tory Party leaders in the frame during the leadership contest that officially started tonight at 5:30 pm when nominations closed, with the final list yet to be announced.

Especially as the 2017 Tory manifesto said:

"We will maintain all other pensioner benefits, including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences, for the duration of this parliament."

On TV licences I gather they later said this was a mistake.

The free licences started under Labour in 2000 and it was funded by central government.

Then in 2015 George Osborne said that the BBC would take over that responsibility by the year 2020.

So the Tories basically passed the buck to the BBC for any future difficult decisions.

The BBC conducted a consultation on this last year with 190,000 people and say that 52% of respondents were in favour of reforming or abolishing the fee free licences.

This move could affect up to 3.7 million pensioners. Although some 900,000 households might still qualify under the new means tested rules.

But some of those pensioners that don't qualify could end up finding it a stretch too far and forced into poverty, debt and the courts as a result.

Caroline Abrahams from Age UK said: "One thing we've noticed through the consultation is how much older people value it, it might be a surprise to the BBC how important the TV is. One in four over-65s say this is their main form of companionship."

The BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said it had been a "very difficult decision" and also said:

"We think it's fair to those over 75 but also to all our audiences for whom there was no appetite for the level of cuts that would have been necessary if the concession had been extended."

"There are people for whom this will be unwelcome news, who have not paid until now but will do so.

"We know we have a loyal audience over the age of 75 and we think many of them will understand the difficult position we are in."

Now, the Guardian reports that:

"The BBC is battling to maintain its main source of funding while also remaining relevant to younger viewers. The average age of a BBC One viewer is now 60-plus, meaning many people who consume the broadcaster's content are currently viewing it for free."

That therefore means that many of the younger generations are not buying TV licences, does it not? If they were then the average age would surely be much lower.

And, unless the BBC does something to drastically change its offering, then that average age can surely only get older. Because people who have grown up not watching what is to them an irrelevant BBC, aren't likely to suddenly convert.

That means that within 20 or so years there will be virtually no-one watching BBC One and no-one paying TV licences, does it not?

Either that or bucket loads of people are getting away with watching the BBC and not paying at all! And remember you need a licence if you watch or record live TV on any channel, which adds another dimension to this.

What that says to me, is that either the BBC is totally broken and not able to get anyone under about 50 to watch its programmes, or the TV licence system is completely broken and no longer fit for purpose.

Now, whatever you think about the licence fee, this cannot be right that the oldest and most vulnerable, some of whom rely on their TV for comfort, should find themselves at risk of having their service stripped from them or even at risk of court action.

Hence the timing of the BBC announcement and the potential for Tory party members to apply pressure on their leadership candidates to provide the required extra funding to the BBC.

And the breaking news is that the following ten are now official Tory leadership candidates:

Michael Gove

Matt Hancock

Mark Harper

Jeremy Hunt

Sajid Javid

Boris Johnson

Andrea Leadsom

Esther McVey

Dominic Raab

Rory Stewart

#BBCLicenceFee

#BBC

#Pensioners

Sources:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-48583487

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/jun/10/bbc-confirms-plans-to-make-over-75s-pay-licence-fee

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