The BBC has sent half a million letters pressuring members of the public to pay their TV licence.
In August, over-75s were stripped of their free TV privilege and obliged to stump up £160 or face criminal charges. Data obtained by the Mail reveals that by November, 525,223 letters were sent around the country.
To hammer the message home to vulnerable and often isolated members of the public, during a pandemic no less, the BBC told pensioners to “arrange payment” or apply for free licence if they are entitled. Only those on ‘pension credit’ are eligible for a free licence.
700,000 households are known to have withheld payment.
The BBC’s decision to plunder people’s pockets comes during a torrid period for the public broadcaster, during which widespread unease about its apparent bias towards liberal views has flared up, sparking a strong popular reaction in the form of pressure group, Defund the BBC as well as offshoot campaigns of existing organisations.
The raid on pensioners has provoked over-sixties organisation, Silver Voices to launch a petition for the government to take back control over the licence fee. Age UK also ran a petition, attracting 630,000 signatures.
Emboldened by these campaigns, thousands of pensioners refuse to cough up.
Dennis Reed of Silver Voices, said: “It just shows their complete lack of sensitivity and empathy with the plight, particularly of older people, who’ve been isolated in their own homes for a very long period of time.”
Pro-Brexit Tory MP Peter Bone is on the same page. “You’ve got this state monopoly which is chasing elderly people at a time when they are having to deal with so many other issues. You would have to be pretty heartless to do that, wouldn’t you.”
However, the letters seem to be achieving their objective. According to a TV Licence spokesman more than 80% of older customers have responded with payment, and more cheques are rolling in.
“We are well aware of the ongoing challenges people are facing because of coronavirus which is why we’re giving people more time to get set up,” the spokesman added.
In 2015, the government transferred responsibility for pensioners’ licences to the BBC and has responded to the unpopular move to do away with the privilege by decriminalising failure to pay.
A public consultation was launched early last year. Nothing has been heard since, giving the BBC ample opportunity to add more misery with their loathsome letters.