In a move that has sparked outrage and public controversy, the BBC has planned to scrap the historical TV licence concession for over-75s. According to the plans, millions of over-75s will be obliged to pay the £154.50 licence fee from June 2020. The BBC has claimed that this move is necessary, otherwise the country’s largest television corporation will be forced to shut down channels in order to save on costs. The £154.50 fee covers the right to watch live television and access the BBC iPlayer service. The licence fee was scrapped by then Labour chancellor, Gordon Brown, in 1999, with the £154.50 cost of the licences fulfilled by the government. In 2015, under the direction of George Osbourne, it was announced that the government subsidisation of the licence fees was to be scrapped by 2020, leaving the BBC to choose whether or not to fund the concession.
The BBC has maintained that the total cost of continuing the subsidy equates to the running cost of various channels including BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, CBBC and CBeebies. On the plans to cut the subsidy, BBC Director General has stated, “This has not been an easy decision. Whilst we know that pensioner incomes have improved since 2000, we also know for some the TV licence is a lot of money.” As a pledge made in the Conservative manifesto during the 2017 election, Theresa May promised to maintain various benefits “including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences, for the duration of this parliament.” Boris Johnson, speaking on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Biarritz, insisted that, “The BBC received a settlement that was conditional upon their paying for TV licences for over-75s. They should cough up.” Meanwhile, the debate rages on.