BBC accused of ‘targeting elderly’ with licence fee as they ‘know they will be afraid

BBC licence fee prosecutions discussed by Tavaziva

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Last week it was confirmed that the BBC licence fee would be frozen at £159 for the next two years. The freeze was announced by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who also said the Government would launch a review into the funding model. Once the freeze ends in April 2024, the annual charge – the BBC’s main source of funding – will then rise in line with inflation.

Ms Dorries said the licence fee announcement would be the “last”, with the BBC’s Royal Charter up for renewal at the end of 2027.

The Culture Secretary said: “The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors are over.”

Watching the BBC live or on iPlayer without paying the licence fee is a criminal offence, with fines of up to £1,000.

Between 2000 and 2021, over-75s were exempt from paying the licence fee.

When it was announced the exemption would end, many pensioners hit out at the decision.

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Grandmother Ivy Siegfried, from Greenock, Scotland, laid bare her thoughts on the matter in a throwback interview on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ in 2020.

She said: “The BBC are targeting the elderly because they know they will be afraid.

“Many pensioners will feel threatened by the prospect of someone coming to their door for money and the BBC know they will pay.”

She added: “I’m not frightened. I’m not afraid to go to court or prison if I have to

“I have quite a number of friends who feel the same, they are with me on this.

“If I go to prison, I will get three meals a day and free TV in there anyway!”

Due to the pressures of the Covid pandemic, the BBC did temporarily shelve its plans to make pensioners pay.

The right to a free TV licence for over-75s ended in August 2020, but in February of last year the Corporation announced a transition period to allow people in that age category more time to pay.

However, the transition period ended in July last year, meaning the over-75s are no longer exempt from paying, apart from in certain circumstances.

Last week, Ms Dorries claimed the elderly would no longer be threatened with payment notices and that those struggling to pay would be boosted by the Government’s plans.

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She reiterated her message as she gave a statement on the BBC’s funding settlement in the House of Commons.

She said: “The global cost of living is rising and this Government is committed to supporting families as much as possible during these difficult times.

“Given that climate, we had to think very carefully about imposing a potential increase on the TV licence, particularly given that any increase would expose families to the potential threat of bailiffs knocking on their door or criminal prosecution.”

However, the Silver Voices campaign group has hit out at the announced funding freeze, claiming that over-75s who already cannot afford it will still not be protected from demands for payment.

Dennis Reed, the group’s director, said: “Freezing the licence fee for two years, that’s pretty incidental as far as we’re concerned because a lot of people can’t afford £159.

“There’s really not much in there to cheer about.”

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