Lord Botham calls for over-75s not to be pursued over TV licence fee payments

Tom Horton, PA

Lord Botham has urged his fellow members of the House of Lords to back his calls for over-75s not to be threatened with legal action over the non-payment of the TV licence.

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

Former cricketer Sir Ian, a prominent Brexit supporter, became a peer last year.

TV License fee
(Andy Hepburn/PA)

In a letter to BBC director-general Tim Davie, he said: “The BBC has many friends who want it to survive but the treatment of the over-75s is undermining that goodwill.”

He added there should be an “explicit pledge” from TV Licencing, the organisation which logs whether or not households own a licence, that they “will never prosecute anyone over 75”.

“This problem was not created by you but it rests with you to help solve it,” the letter to Mr Davie stated.

“We would like to hear how you plan to tackle this problem before public outrage grows further.”

Lord Botham told peers in a separate letter he was motivated to act after seeing media reports about the “horrific way” in which over-75s are being pursued for the licence fee.

“In my view, this is institutional bullying on a massive scale and there seems to be some kind of blame game between the BBC and Government,” he said.

“I’m no politician but this feels like a real scandal affecting the very frail that needs sorting out.”

BBC Stock
(Ian West/PA)

Writing in The Telegraph earlier this month, Lord Botham said the way in which over-75s are being treated over TV licencing is “a scandal no one is talking about”.

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

Mr Davie has previously said that not implementing the policy would have cost the corporation £700 million.

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’s decision.

Last month it was revealed the Government is not going ahead with plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee.

A spokeswoman for TV Licencing said: “We have implemented these changes with the greatest care and have worked to make the process as fair and straightforward as possible.

“We have processed more than 3.5 million applications and the vast majority have been dealt with without an issue.

“We do recognise this is a tough time which is why we have ensured no one needs to leave home to apply.

“We have written to people to let them know the simple steps they need to take, there is a dedicated phone line and online support if people have questions, we are giving people plenty of time to get set up and there are flexible payment plans to help spread the cost.”

No enforcement action has yet been taken against anyone who previously held a free over-75s TV licence, the PA news agency understands.

The BBC has said it plans to respond to Lord Botham’s letter.

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