Older people are campaigning to save their free TV licences because for over a million of them, the TV is their constant companion and window on the world. And now it’s under threat.
The campaign has been launched because the BBC is considering removing free TV licences from the over-75s. Licenses for older people used to be paid for by the Government, but they have they pushed the scheme onto the BBC without providing the funding to sustain it.
Age UK say that removing older people’s access to TV would be an unthinkably cruel blow when many are already facing huge challenges.
Half of all over 75’s are living with a disability, and many rely on their TV for companionship and entertainment. For those who don’t have the internet, TV lets them stay up to date with what’s happening in the world.
One campaigner said:
I have had a stroke and I am housebound. TV is my main pleasure. Don’t do this to us please.
The cost of a TV license would not be affordable for the third of over 75’s who are living in poverty or just above the poverty line. Age UK research shows that more than 2 million over 75’s will have to go without TV or cut back on heating and food if free TV licences were scrapped.
Another older person said:
I am on a small pension and if it came to a choice between food and TV, I would lose out and become isolated and alone. TV keeps me company.
Age UK have delivered 6,000 handwritten cards and over 3,500 emails to the BBC. At the time of writing, nearly 80,000 people have signed their petition.
The National Pensioners Convention, Age UK and National Union of Journalists have written to Sir David Clementi, chair of the BBC board, to say that ending free licences for the over-75s is wrong-headed and divisive, and to tell the government it must take back responsibility for this benefit.
In their letter the group said:
When readers and listeners pay for their licence they expect to receive quality programming that informs, educates and entertains – they have never given their backing for their money to be successively raided by government.
You can find out more about the campaign here.
Photo: Age UK