Angry pensioners to stage protest march over TV licence U-turn

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Pensioners are set to march on BBC offices across the country on Friday (June 21) in protest against the decision to scrap blanket free viewing for all over-75’s.

Falkirk East and Linlithgow MP Martyn Day says the move will hit nearly 9,000 of his constituents.

Organisers the National Pensioners Convention say the decision is “callous and cruel”, while Age Scotland says the decision to restore the charge for millions of pensioners will cause hardship.

On Monday the BBC announced that from June 2020, the free TV licence would only be available to older people aged 75-plus if they were in receipt of Pension Credit, a means-tested benefit designed to help older people on very low incomes.

It says programme output would suffer if the earlier decision to grant all over-75’s free viewing was allowed to remain.

Earlier this year Martyn Day said a U-turn on the earlier decision to scrap licence fees for all over-75’s would directly affect 8,761 in his constituency alone, arguing that television is a vital lifeline and source of news and entertainment for older people.

However BBC director-general Tony Hall has claimed the service would be “worse for everybody” if the concession continues in its current form.

Free TV licences were expected to cost £745 million a year by 2021/22, with government funding for the scheme ending in June next year.

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, said: “The BBC’s own report confirms that tens of thousands of Scotland’s poorest and most vulnerable older people will lose out under the new means test.

“This plan is deeply unfair and all the evidence shows that it fails to protect those who can least afford to pay.

“Our helpline has been taking calls from worried older people who are already struggling to get by on fixed incomes. Many don’t receive Pension Credit because they are confused by the process, too proud to claim it, or just miss out on the benefit.

“We are calling on the next Prime Minister to do the right thing and restore this entitlement for everyone aged over 75.”

During the consultation in the issue, Mr Day said: “According to the BBC’s own figures, scrapping ofthe over 75s concessionary licence will take an average of more than £22,000 a week out of the pockets of over 75’s in every MP’s constituency.

“Age UK have also warned that scrapping the concession would push 50,000 over 75s into relative poverty, which is disturbing to say the least”.