TV licences: concern over BBC plans to ask elderly for cash

There are concerns that asking over-75s to make a donation to the BBC will leave elderly people feeling guilty. Picture: Getty Images
There are concerns that asking over-75s to make a donation to the BBC will leave elderly people feeling guilty. Picture: Getty Images
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AGE charities have expressed concerns over BBC plans to encourage over-75s to make a donation towards their free television licences.

Renowned names such as Dame Helen Mirren, Lord Melvyn Bragg and Sir Terry Wogan have reportedly been earmarked to participate in a campaign urging over-75s to make a contribution.

The BBC wants to reduce the £700 million-a-year cost of handing out free licences – normally costing £145.50 a year – to the elderly.

But Age Scotland has hit out at the plans, and said that targeting older people was “misguided and insensitive”.

A BBC source said: “The BBC has asked independent experts to advise on how to go about attracting voluntary contributions from over-75s when the government reduces its support.

“The government agreed that the BBC could ask for voluntary payments from those who currently receive free licences as part of the agreement for the corporation taking on the costs of free over-75s licences.”

It was reported that a number of “silver celebrities”, including Sir Michael Parkinson, could be lined up to appear in a campaign driven by director-general Lord Hall.

But it is understood such a campaign will just be one of a number of options considered.

Asked if there had been discussions about involving the celebrities reported in connection with the campaign, the source said it was “too early to say”.

A spokesman for Age Scotland said: “The idea of asking for voluntary contributions for the TV licence from the over-75s is simply wrong and will only seek to further stigmatise the people who need the free licence the most.

“When two in five over-75s say that TV is their only company, it’s worrying that the BBC would be investigating this idea without truly understanding the ramifications.

“Undoubtedly this is based on some fantasy notion that older people are seemingly better able to pay, and of course, there will be anecdotes of lottery winners in receipt of a free TV licence. However, this is not representative of older people and we know that many have a daily struggle between heating and eating, the BBC therefore needs to have a rethink.

“Along with many retailers’ festive campaigns, we have come through a Christmas period where we called for greater help for those who are isolated and alone.

“For the BBC to then turn around in January and target older people to cover for government cuts is not only tragically misguided, it’s also completely insensitive.”

courtney.cameron@edinburghnews.com