3.7 million people over the age of 75, who were supposed to start paying the TV Licence fee on June 1, will get a two months reprieve, as the BBC pushes back the plan to cancel the current exemption. The reason? the Coronavirus pandemic.
The TV licence is a tax used to fund the BBC’s TV, radio channels and its website. The fee is collected by the BBC, mainly through outsourced companies, and failure to pay can incur penalties of up to £1,000 and prosecution. Starting April 1, 2020, the annual fee will increase from £154.50 to £157.50
Back in June 2020, The BBC announced a plan to cancel an exemption that’s been in place since 1999, which meant over-75s didn’t need to pay the TV Licence fee, with the government subsidising the added costs.
When the government decided to phase out those subsidies, it tasked the BBC with either paying for this exemption from their regular budget, or decide on a new scheme.
According to the BBC, this exemption would cost £745 million a year – around 20% of the BBC’s budget. Therefore, over-75s were told they would have to start paying for the TV licence, despite growing criticism from the public, and calls to abolish the TV Licence fee altogether.
The only ones who would still be exempt are those who receive Pension Credit.
Today, however, The BBC has announced that the upcoming changes to the TV Licence fee will be pushed back to August, as “during this time we do not want anyone to be worried about any potential change.”
“The BBC’s priority over the coming period will be to do everything we can to serve the nation at this uniquely challenging time. As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a vital role to play in supplying information to the public in the weeks and months ahead.
“Recognising the exceptional circumstances, the BBC Board has therefore decided to change the start date of the new policy. Our current plan is to now bring it into place on 1 August. We will of course keep the issue under review as the situation continues to evolve.”
Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said he is pleased the BBC agreed to delay the licence fee changes. “It is right that the BBC have recognised the exceptional circumstances posed by the Coronavirus outbreak and the need for the whole country to pull together in the national effort.”
According to Age UK, a charity that helps older people, this delay might be too little – too late. “We do question whether a delay of just 8 weeks will be anything like long enough”, said Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director.
“Unfortunately many over-75s will have already received a letter suggesting they get their Pension Credit letters photocopied at the local library or corner shop. This runs counter to the public health message.”
Who Needs To Pay The TV Licence?
Those 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.
Remember LIVE TV 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 this category, even if you RECORD it for later viewing. See our complete guide to the TV licence fee.