3.7 Million over-75 pensioners in the UK will have to start paying the annual TV licence fee (currently at £154.50) starting next year, according to new plans announced by the BBC. The only ones exempt from this new rule are those who claim pension credit – a controversial means-based test, which is often overlooked by those who need it the most.
The TV licence is a tax used to fund the BBC. It is collected by the BBC, mainly through outsourced companies, and failure to pay can incur penalties of up to £1,000. In the past, cord cutters who never watched live TV were exempt – but due to a change in the law, people who only watch BBC iPlayer still need to pay.
People over the age of 75 were exempt from paying the TV licence since 1999, and the added costs were subsidised by the government. However, those subsidies are being phased out, and the government tasked the BBC with either paying for this exemption from their regular budget – or decide on a new scheme.
According to the BBC, funding the exemption would cost a huge amount of money:
“After June 2020, the cost of continuing with free licences for all over 75s would be £745 million a year and rising – which is around 20% of the BBC’s budget.
Were we to meet these costs, it would in practice mean the closures of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland Channel and Radio 5live – in addition to a number of local radio stations and other cuts and reductions”
Therefore, starting June 2020, over-75s would have to start paying the TV Licence (providing they actually watch the BBC, or any other form of live TV.) However, those who can prove they receive Pension Credit will still be exempt from paying the fee.
Since the BBC’s announcement yesterday, many have criticised the decision, saying that Pension Credit is a bad way to decide who should be exempt, as many poor pensioners fail to demand the credit they’re entitled to – and therefore would need to start paying the TV licence as well.
According to “Age UK”, at least 650,000 poor pensioners will have to face a new bill they can’t afford.
Means-testing may sound fair but in reality it means at least 650,000 of our poorest pensioners facing a big new annual bill they simply can’t afford. Sign our petition now: https://t.co/pC013YGk6j pic.twitter.com/5iR1HBzlH3
— Age UK (@age_uk) June 10, 2019
Who Needs To Pay The TV Licence?
TV Cord Cutters who are used to watching Netflix and other streaming TV services, and do not tend to watch live TV, might not even need to pay the TV licence fee – though many pensioners are exactly the demographic who don’t tend to watch streaming TV.
When deciding whether you need to pay, there are two main questions to ask yourself:
- Do you watch ANY live TV on ANY device?
- Do you watch BBC iPlayer on ANY device?
If the answer is YES to either one of those, then in most cases, you do need to pay a TV licence.
Also note that the LIVE TV part refers to ANY live TV, not just the BBC channels. ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5… anything that is being broadcast right now, in real time, falls into that category – even if you RECORD it for later viewing. And oddly enough – even if you watch live TV originating from other countries – you still need a UK TV licence.
For our full rundown on TV Licence fees, who can skip it and who can get a discount – read our complete TV Licence guide right here.