Beeb BACKS DOWN in row over TV licences for over-75s

The BBC has temporarily halted attempts to prosecute over-75s for failure to set up a new paid-for TV licence, it has emerged.

Over-75s were exempt from paying the telly tax until August last year when an agreement between the government and broadcaster ended, leaving millions of pensioners subject to threatening letters from TV Licensing.

The chasing letters were sent to hundreds of thousands of homes across the UK after 700,000 pensioners had still not paid for a licence some months after the new rules came into force.

Cricket legend Lord Botham revealed in a Telegraph column how visually and mentally-impaired pensioners were being harassed for payment, including stroke patients and 90 year-olds suffering with dementia.

Huge numbers of senior citizens refused to respond to letters from the corporation demanding payment.

In a huge climbdown, the broadcaster has now suspended enforcement of non-payment by senior citizens, citing coronavirus challenges as its reason for backing down, for now.

The BBC said on Tuesday: “In light of ongoing challenges to many of our customers caused by the coronavirus, we’re giving older people a bit more time to make arrangements for their next licence. We’re writing to customers to reassure them of this.

“The letter explains that customers who previously held a free over-75 licence up to July 31 2020 are still legally covered, and we are giving them time to either arrange payment for a licence or claim a free one.”

Silver Voices, a campaign group for senior citizens in the UK welcomed the stay and called for a rethink on the national broadcaster attempting to squeeze payment from over-75s.

Its director, Dennis Reed said: “This change is news to us. Hundreds of thousands of elderly people have now been given an amnesty until the end of the pandemic and we hope it gives the BBC and the Government the breathing space to rethink this terrible policy.

“The current situation is untenable. They cannot enforce the licence fee on hundreds of thousands of over-75s who are increasingly determined, the more reminders they get, not to pay.”

The BBC however did reiterate that any over-75s applying late for a TV licence will need to backdate payment to the beginning of August last year.