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Pensioners fight for their TV rights

by Carole Railton

Pensioners in the UK who are over 75 are hot under the collar. They have recently had the annual TV license bill to add to their expenses from which they were previously exempt. The TV licence has been free for the over-75s for the past 20 years and remains free for those on Pension Credit.

Not having a TV licence while having a TV, or a computer to gain access to TV shows, is a crime punishable with a fine. Some pensioners have reacted to this news by creating videos saying they would rather go to jail than pay the £157.50 annual fee.

One pensioner said: “I’m not afraid to go to court or prison if I have to and I have quite a number of friends who feel the same, they are with me on this. If I go to prison I will get three meals a day and a free TV.” One 87 year old said: “It’s an experience I have never had before. What I have got to lose?”

Many are impacted by this proposed charge but are not frightened of the consequences of not having a TV Licence. There are about 3.7 million old age pensioners (OAPs) in the UK. It is not surprising, therefore, that campaigners are disgruntled and say they will make as much fuss as they did about the council tax rises in 2005.

Dennis Reed, director of campaign group Silver Voices said the group was not advocating that over-75s refuse to pay for a licence. Instead, he advocated that all over-60s “gum up” and disrupt the BBC’s payment system.

All 60-plus people should join together, cancel their direct debits and instead send cheques and postal orders monthly to the BBC. This would make it time-consuming for the BBC to process payments.

MPs and campaigners have warned that the justice system would be unable to cope if tens of thousands of pensioners opt to go to court or disrupt the processing system. The BBC has allocated £38 million to chasing non-paying pensioners through the courts.

There are better ways for the BBC to save money. Initially, the corporation could reduce the salaries of TV pundits, many of whom are earning over £1 million for hosting one show a week. Then there is the two-year program the BBC ran to cut the number of staff by 2% costing costing £540 million over the period. Looking at these outgoings it is no wonder the BBC is looking to make savings, but in my opinion in the completely wrong areas.

Carole Railton (copyright). Carole getting ready to watch TV.

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