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. As you will be aware, people over the age of 75 are currently eligible for a free TV licence, which also covers anyone they are living with. In 2015, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimated the cost of continuing the free TV licences to be £200 million in 2018/19, rising to £445 million in 2019/20 and £745 million in 2020/21. At the moment, the Government reimburses the BBC for the free TV licences, but funding of the free TV licence will transfer to the BBC from 2020. It then becomes the BBC's decision whether to continue the concession in its current form.
The Government has made it clear that it wants, and expects, the BBC to continue the concession. The BBC understood the level of commitment required when it agreed to the funding settlement and to take on responsibility for the concession in 2015.
I wrote to the BBC 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. They subsequently agreed to accept written submissions which I welcome.