Dame Esther Rantzen: Axing free licence fees for over-75s is "act of cruelty"

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2018/11/15: Esther Rantzen seen speaking at the Commemoration. Thousands of people including key politicians, celebrities, faith leaders, high profile supporters of refugee childrens rights gather in an event organized by UK charity Safe Passage in Euston, London to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport. Survivors of the Kindertransport have issued a statement urging the government to provide more routes to sanctuary for child refugees. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Esther Rantzen has accused the BBC of committing an "act of cruelty" (Credit: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Dame Esther Rantzen is among the BBC stars condemning the decision to scrap free TV licences for over-75s, saying it is “not right”.

The 78-year-old TV presenter joins former Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman, 75, and The Royle Family star Ricky Tomlinson, 79, in demanding the BBC backtracks on its plans.

Rantzen - founder of Silver Line, a helpline for elderly people who feel lonely or isolated - called the axing an “act of cruelty” which sends a message to the millions affected that “you are a nuisance, a burden, we don’t want you”.

Read more: Ben Fogle to donate salary to over-75s who will be unable to pay for a TV licence

She told the Daily Mirror: “It’s no good saying how much we owe older people on D-Day and then dropping them in it. It’s not respectful and it’s not right.”

Goodman said axing the free licences is a “rotten” thing to do. He added: “It will impact the most vulnerable, the most lonely and the poorest.

“In the scheme of things, with the billions that the Government spend on this, that and the other, it’s a pee in the ocean.”

And actor Tomlinson led a protest outside the BBC’s Salford HQ yesterday.

The broadcasting corporation have hit back at claims that they could afford to keep the free TV licences for over-75s in place if it paid presenters less.

A statement said: “Free TV licences for over 75s on Pension Credit are expected to cost the BBC around £250m a year.

“Even if we stopped employing every presenter currently earning over £150,000 that would save less than £20m - and it would mean losing some of your favourite stars.”

Read more: Ricky Tomlinson leads licence fee protest outside BBC’s Salford office

The BBC added: “We have become much more efficient, halved the number of senior managers since 2009/10 and even if we didn’t pay a single senior manager more than £150,000 a year, that would save just £5m.”

Last year it was revealed Gary Linekar is the highest paid person working for the BBC, earning a salary of £1.7million.”

BBC presenter Ben Fogle has announced he plans to donate his entire series pay from Animal Park to help over-75s pay their TV licence.

It was announced this week that the BBC plans to means test the free TV licences for over-75s from June next year. Only to those who are claiming pension credit will be eligible for the concession. Over three million pensioners will have to start paying to keep their licence. The current cost of a colour licence is £154.50.