Pensioners lead revolt against BBC over TV licence fee, analysis shows

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Pensioners are driving an increase in TV licence evasion rates, analysis shows. The proportion of viewers failing to pay the £159 annual charge went up by 1.35 percent in the course of a year, according to House of Commons research.

It said the main driver for the jump was the free licence for over-75s being scrapped.

The Silver Voices campaign group said the documents show the scale of the revolt by older pensioner against the licence fee is bigger than previously thought.

New analysis by the organisation claims up to 357,000 older people are resisting paying, more than 100,000 higher than previously believed.

Director Dennis Reed is calling on the BBC to reinstate free TV licences for pensioners.

He said: “Instead of sending barrages of threatening letters to over-75s, at addresses they say they no longer keep, the BBC should respond to the resolution and strength of feeling shown by senior citizens, by reopening discussions with Silver Voices on ways to resolve this long-running dispute.”

The Commons research briefing said the BBC estimates the evasion rate across the general population increased from 7.58 percent in 2020/21 to 8.93 percent the following year.

The BBC estimates that a one-point reduction in the evasion rate amounts to an extra £42 million in revenue.

But the evasion rate of the £159 annual charge went up by 1.35 percent in 2021/22.

The corporation sparked a furious backlash when free TV licences for most over-75s were scrapped in August 2020.

Only over-75s who receive the pension credit benefit are now eligible to tune in for free.

When the BBC ended its licence fee grace period for over-75s in July 2021, 260,000 pensioners were still yet to pay.

But no prosecutions against over-75s who previously held a free licence have been authorised so far.

A TV Licensing spokesperson said: “Over 9 in 10 households are correctly licensed – including over 75s – and evasion remains low.

“The BBC also pays for over 700,000 free TV Licences for over-75s in receipt of Pension Credit. We work hard to help people stay correctly licensed, with a range of support and options to help spread the cost.”

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