The BBC have launched a consultation on proposals which could see 12,000 over 75s in the Borders currently eligible for a concession having to pay the £150 license fee. However despite the fact that the majority of this age group do not regularly use the internet, the consultation can only be completed online.
Currently all households with someone aged over 75 are entitled to receive free TV licences. The cost of this scheme has been funded by the UK Government since it was introduced in 2000, but will come to an end in 2020. Any new scheme from June 2020 will be for the BBC to consult on, decide and then pay for.
There are currently an estimated 11,792 people in the Scottish Borders over the age of 75 and this is projected to rise to nearly 16,000 by 2026.
The BBC is consulting on what form the scheme should take and has offered a range of options from maintaining the current concession to raising the age to 80, means testing or abolishing the concession altogether.
However, the consultation can only be completed online, something which local MP John Lamont thinks will exclude a large proportion of the very group affected by this change. Recent statistics show the majority of over 75 year olds (66%) do not regularly go online.
John Lamont MP said: “This could be a significant change for a large number of Borderers who currently don’t have to pay anything to watch television at home.
“This consultation has been made necessary because the UK Government has put the BBC in charge of the over 75 concession, but it is disappointing that the broadcaster is thinking about getting rid of the concession completely.
“I have written to them to say that this exemption is important for many in the Scottish Borders and also to point out that an online only survey won’t be representative when the majority of this age group do not regularly go online.
“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.
“If the BBC concludes that it needs to make a change, I would hope that it will work hard to ensure that those over 75 who would struggle to pay the license fee continue to be exempt.”