The BBC launched a consultation on licence fees for older people today (November 20).
Currently, any residence housing 75-year-olds and older are entitled to a free TV licence. But this scheme – funded by the government and expected to cost £745 million by 2021/22 – is scheduled to come to an end in June 2020.
With the future of the project up in the air, the BBC wants to hear the views of the public. The consultation will run from today for three months and the BBC hopes to make a decision by summer 2019.
There are several options for the Corporation to go for, one being a renewal of the same scheme, which could cost around a fifth of its budget (the equivalent to its expenditure on all of BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, CBBC and CBeebies).
This would mean over-75s would not have to pay, as at present, but it would likely fundamentally change the BBC – home to EastEnders, Doctor Who and The One Show – because of the scale of service cuts it would need to make.
Another option would be to restore the universal licence fee that existed in the past, meaning no concession. This would mean the BBC would not have to make significant cuts to services, but it would have an impact on those over-75s, particularly poorer pensioners, who currently do not pay.
Or, the BBC could take neither of these choices and reform the scheme, by discounting the cost of a licence fee for older people, raising the age from 75 to 80, or introducing means-testing where older people in greater financial need wouldn't pay.
Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, said: "This is an important decision. We have set out a range of options – each has merits and consequences, with implications for the future of the BBC, and for everyone, including older people.
"We need to hear views to help the BBC make the best and fairest decision."
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