BBC licence fee to rise £3 from April

The latest increase comes amid debate around the future of the licence fee, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in December that it needs "looking at"

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The TV licence fee will increase by £3 to £157.50 a year in April, the BBC announced yesterday.

The hike is a further blow to hard-pressed pensioners, most of whom will be losing their free licences in the summer.

The price is set by the Government, which declared in 2016 that it would rise in line with inflation for five years from April 2017.

The latest increase, of 1.8 per cent, comes amid calls for the licence fee to be made voluntary for viewers - or abolished altogether.

Over-75s face paying for a TV licence for the first time this year after the previously free perk was restricted to those who receive pension credits.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "A 3-a-year increase may not sound much but will be yet another blow to the hundreds of thousands of over-75s who will struggle to afford a TV licence from June.

"The clock is ticking and the BBC and Government must urgently sit down and broker a solution to the debacle."

The Government said last year it would consider whether failure to pay the fee should cease to be a criminal offence

Currently no over-75s pay, but from June 1 only those who get pension credit will watch for free after the Government shifted the cost of providing free TV licences back to the broadcaster.

The BBC said around 1.5 million over-75s will be able to claim £154.50 a year.

But around 3.7 million more households will have to pay.

Ms Abrahams added: "Many of the over-75s will lose their free licence are house-bound due to ill health and disabilities and are almost completley reliant on their TV for entertainment, companionship and as a way to stay connected with the world.

"Although the poorest older people would supposedly continue to be entitled to a free TV licence under the BBC's proposed scheme, we know that some two in five of all those eligible don't claim.

"They and others whose incomes are only just above the line are set to face horrible decisions over whether they can afford to continue to watch.

"We urge the Government to do the right thing and take back responsibility for this important welfare benefit."

John O'Connell from the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "An increase in the licence fee makes a mockery of typical taxpayers, most would rather see it abolished altogether.

"The licence fee is not fit for the 21st century. With drastic technological change and the multiple ways people watch the media, the current model looks increasingly outdated.

"The simple solution is for the BBC to lose its automatic access to Britain's bank accounts, with the licence fee replaced by an optional subscription change."

The licence fee raises £3.7billion a year, and accounts for around 75 per cent of the BBC's revenue. 

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