BBC faces pensioner licence fee revolt as it sends out first letters today demanding £157.50 payments after millions lost their right to free viewing
- Older viewers are likely to start receiving the ten-page letters from today
- Age UK said letter do not make it clear when the elderly will be demanded to pay
- Age UK criticised the switch as ‘complex’ and said the letters were ‘quite long’
A charity has criticised the BBC for sending out ‘long and complex’ letters to the over-75s about its new TV licence scheme.
Age UK said the documents fail to make it clear when the elderly will get a demand for payment after millions lost their right to a free licence.
Older viewers are likely to start receiving the ten-page letters from today outlining how the benefit will now only go to those on pension credit.
But the charity warned the letters confirmed its view that the controversial change would ‘in all likelihood end in tears’.
Age UK said the documents fail to make it clear when the elderly (stock photo) will get a demand for payment after millions lost their right to a free licence
It came into force on August 1 but the broadcaster has only just sent out the first letters telling the elderly what to do.
They will tell pensioners that if the BBC has not heard from them within two months, their licence will be cancelled automatically. Bosses intended to launch the scheme in June but delayed it because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Age UK criticised the switch as ‘complex’ and described the ‘bundle of papers’ explaining it as ‘quite long’. It warned that those with dementia would face particular problems. Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: ‘The BBC can’t be criticised for not giving older people much information about their new TV licence scheme but the problem is their plan is complex and the bundle of papers explaining it quite long.
‘It’s likely that some older people will get lost in the detail and wonder what they are supposed to do. The over-75 population is hugely diverse so while some will no doubt navigate the documentation with ease, others may find this impossibly hard.
‘If they have families or friends to help, that will make a big difference but there are many older people on their own who cannot rely on support.
‘The BBC’s pack omits the one piece of information many older people will most want to see: When they are likely to receive a letter asking them to pay. In the absence of this, some will be concerned that they have somehow missed their letter and are liable to be found at fault.’ She said others will be ‘adamant’ they are not going to pay for a licence ‘come what may’.
The BBC says it has 800 additional staff to deal with queries from the over-75s and has dealt with more than 300,000 calls on the issue since March.
A spokesman said: ‘Over-75s will start to receive letters about how to set up their new TV licence from today.
‘No one needs to do anything until they have the letter, whether that’s paying or applying for a free licence, and no one needs to leave their home. We are also working with hundreds of money advice and community organisations to reach older people.’
The BBC said 450,000 older viewers have applied for a free licence and those who have to pay can choose instalments.