BBC boss rules out suspending licence fee for over-75s if second lockdown comes

The BBC’s new director-general has said the BBC will not automatically suspend TV licence fee charges for the over-75s in the event of a second lockdown.

The universal right to a free TV licence ended last month for the age group and only those in receipt of pension credit will not have to pay.

It had originally been scheduled to end in June, however the move was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Appearing before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee, new director-general Tim Davie said the move had been a “tough decision” for the broadcaster.

Mr Davie said the BBC would likely continue with its new policy when asked about the prospect of a second lockdown.

“If you actually think about it, you end up with mass confusion if you were to make any adjustments, which I wouldn’t want to do anyway, and you also end up with massive holes in the BBC’s finances,” he said.

“I think we’re set with our system, I think it is well set up to deliver in pretty much any circumstances.”

Mr Davie added that not implementing the new policy would have cost the BBC £700 million.

BBC Stock
BBC Stock

“It is just too much in terms of you lose vast swathes of output,” he said.

He added that the financial hit to the BBC would mean some in the age category do not get some of the content they currently consume.

The BBC agreed to take on responsibility for funding TV licences for over-75s – which had previously been free – as part of the charter agreement with the Government in 2015, but has since said it cannot afford to continue the universal benefit.

The move to end free TV licences for the over-75s has been criticised by some, including charity Age UK and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who said in July that he felt “let down” by the broadcaster.