THE TV LICENCE
The Somerset Guardian, 12th June 2019
This week, the BBC confirmed that from June 2020 free TV licences for those over the age of seventy-five will be means-tested. Research conducted by the House of Commons Library concluded that this will affect around three million households in the United Kingdom.
The BBC’s decision has caused controversy, not least because there are many pensioners who do not claim Pension Credit and therefore, would not be eligible for a free licence but could, potentially, ill-afford the £154.50 annual fee. Moreover, if these pensioners continued to watch television without a licence they would be liable for criminal prosecution, causing even greater hardship and unnecessary stress on the individual and the court system.
The licence fee worked in the 1950s when there was only one channel available to those who owned television sets. However, today there are hundreds on offer through Sky, Freesat or Freeview with soaring numbers of people opting to subscribe to internet streaming services such as Netflix, Now TV or Amazon that do not require a television set to access them.
Tax on television ownership is wrong and the BBC must realise this. It has been in a lucrative position for decades and once legitimately commanded a licence fee but it must now modernise by seeking differential funding streams, ensuring that it can maintain the quality of programmes and run the organisation effectively and profitably. Given that the over-sixties watch the BBC the most, penalising pensioners is not the way forward.