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Speculation mounts on end date for free over-75s TV licence

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The TV licence fee for over-75s is due to be re-introduced in August but reports suggest this implementation could be pushed back again – a move which would be “sensible” given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In March, the BBC and government confirmed they would delay reviving a TV licence fee for millions of over-75s.

The date for re-introducing a fee for the TV licence for this group was pushed back from 1 June to 1 August 2020. After this date, any pensioners not in receipt of pension credit will be forced to pay £157.50 for the benefit currently enjoyed for free.

The Sunday Times reported that the BBC is expected to grant a second reprieve to pensioners by delaying the implementation of the TV licence fee “until at least October”.

It said senior BBC officials have signalled a further postponement with the move expected to be discussed at a board meeting next month.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said it’s very hard to see how the BBC could go ahead with their replacement for the over-75 free TV licence in August, as they currently plan.

“It requires older people to show they’re in receipt of pension credit to retain a free licence, which means most needing to get documents photocopied – and yet many are still shielding. The government is expected to change its shielding advice next week, signalling a shift to a more individualised approach. However, many over-75s are likely to be advised they should be cautious for the foreseeable future and it will take time before a lot of non-shielding older people feel safe to go out and about again,” she said.

Abrahams added: “Delaying the replacement scheme to October would be a sensible decision by the BBC in light of the pandemic – a terrible time for many older people during which, for many, their TV has never been more of a lifeline.

“Of course, Age UK is convinced that free TV licences should stay in place permanently and we hope that the searing experience of the pandemic will persuade the BBC and the government to look at the issue afresh and agree to keep them. It would be a very popular decision.”

A BBC spokesperson, said: “The BBC has made no such decision and it is wrong to suggest we have. The BBC’s position is that we have delayed implementation until August – and we are doing what we have always said – which is keeping that decision under review.”

The licence fee charge for older viewers was scrapped in 1999 when Gordon Brown was chancellor of the exchequer.

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