The BBC have announced they will start charging older people for a licence fee, in a move which is set to affect the majority over the 12,000 over 75s in the Borders.
Currently all over 75s are eligible for an exemption from the £150 licence fee. Following a consultation, the BBC have now announced that from June 2020, most over 75s will have to pay, with an exemption applying only to those who currently receive Pension Credit. UK wide, it has been estimated that more than 3.6 million over 75s will lose their license fee exemption.
In the Scottish Borders, there are currently an estimated 11,792 people over the age of 75 and this is projected to rise to nearly 16,000 by 2026. The majority of these people are not in receipt of pension credit and will therefore lose their exemption.
Charities have also criticised the move, pointing out that around 650,000 eligible pensioner households who are eligible for Pension Credit do not claim it, and will therefore also lose their license fee exemption.
Local MP John Lamont, who last year urged the BBC to maintain the exemption, has slammed the decision.
Commenting, John Lamont MP said: “This is a bad decision from the BBC which will affect many thousands of elderly people in the Borders.
“The BBC agreed to take on control of the over 75 concession as part of a generous funding package which allowed them to increase the license fee above inflation and charge people for using iplayer. The UK Government made it clear that they expected this over 75 concession to be maintained as part of this package.
“For some older residents, particularly those with mobility difficulties, watching TV is a really important daily activity. Watching the news, the latest documentary or even your favourite soap can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing for people who aren’t able to get out as much as they would have liked.”
“Rather than targeting older people, the BBC should be looking at ensuring value for money elsewhere. Given that some BBC presenters are getting paid more than £1 million, many people will rightly question whether the BBC have got their priorities right.”
Last year John Lamont wrote to the BBC about the importance of the over 75 exemption: