TV licence fee: Jonathan Gullis criticises BBC
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The peer said he has been flooded by complaints from people in their 90s who have been sent “threatening” letters from the Beeb. He said it would be totally unacceptable for the broadcaster to hound elderly Britons by agents to their doors.
Lord Botham said: “It would be plain wrong for Tim Davie to break this practice and start prosecutions of our oldest pensioners.
“I have countless complaints from pensioners in their 90s who find the BBC’s letters threatening.
“For the BBC to start doorstep visits from enforcement officers and then criminal prosecutions would be unacceptable.
“It’s also clear that people of this age cannot be expected to cope with the bureaucracy of means-testing.
“The BBC and the Government need to sort this out.”
His comments came after the BBC director-general Tim Davie said people aged 75 and over, who lost their free TV licences last summer, would not be subjected to legal threats if they had not paid the annual fee.
Mr Davie said: “We are not sending any enforcement letters to older people who previously held a free licence.
“There are no visits taking place in relation to over-75 licences at this time.
“We have been very clear that we are giving people time to transition which has been extended further because of Covid.
“We are continuing with that policy.
“We have now transitioned 3.6 million households.
“The majority of households have paid in one go and over 770,000 have applied for free TV licences.”
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However, Mr Davie failed to clarify what would happen if anyone refused to “transition”.
A spokesperson for the BBC added: “Our position on enforcement has not changed – we are not visiting households that previously held a free licence.
“As we’ve said before, we’re giving older people plenty of time to get set up.”
This comes after the corporation announced the mandatory TV licence fee would be increasing by £1.50 from £157.50 to £159 as of next month.
People buying or renewing their TV licence after April 1 will pay the new higher fee.
Those already buying a licence on an instalment scheme that started before that date, such as via a monthly direct debit or weekly cash payments, will continue to make payments totalling £157.50 until it comes up for renewal.
The fee is set by the Government, which announced in 2016 that it would rise in line with inflation for five years from April 2017.
The new cost equates to 43p per day, according to the BBC.
Additional reporting by Laura O’Callaghan
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