BBC’s move to make pensioners pay for TV licences descends into farce as website crashes on first day of new charge
- BBC’s plans to scrap free TV licences for over-75s came into effect yesterday
- A message saying the service was ‘temporarily unavailable’ was on their website
- Site was down for maintenance on Friday night and service resumed last night
- BBC said it was always planned for site to be temporarily offline on Saturday
The website for television licences crashed yesterday shortly after the charge making over-75s pay was introduced.
The BBC‘s decision to scrap free licences for over-75s means more than three million households are being asked to pay the £157.50 annual fee for the first time.
Those trying to pay for their TV licence saw a message saying the service was ‘temporarily unavailable while we update it for the changes to over-75s licences’, The Sunday Times reported.
The site was down for maintenance on Friday night but a view who tried to pay on Friday claimed the site’s message said it would be in service by yesterday morning.
The BBC’s decision to scrap free licences for over-75s means more than three million households are being asked to pay the £157.50 annual fee for the first time
The BBC told The Sunday Times that it was always planned for the TV Licensing website to be temporarily offline on Saturday.
Service on the site resumed last night.
The corporation had planned to axe the free licences on June 1, but postponed it to yesterday due to the pandemic.
TV has become a lifeline for many during lockdown with nearly 2.5million over-75s living alone.
Campaigners warned thousands of pensioners faced being driven into food and fuel poverty after the free licences were axed.
A study by a major charity said more than 500,000 pensioners were unaware they could qualify for a free licence because they are on low incomes.
Age UK research said there are up to 590,000 over-75s eligible for pension credit who are not claiming it. Over-75s can keep a free licence if they claim this credit, a form of benefits.
The charity said they could be forced to choose between having no TV and slashing their food and energy bills if they fail to register for pension credit.
TV licences used to be funded by the Government but responsibility has been transferred to the BBC.
TV licences used to be funded by the Government but responsibility has been transferred to the BBC
The BBC says ending them could prevent it from having to axe BBC Two, BBC Four, Radio 5 Live and other channels and radio stations.
Critics have accused the corporation of exploiting pensioners to plug budget gaps when money could be saved elsewhere.
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: ‘As things stand, more than half a million of the poorest pensioners will still have to pay for a licence, cut spending on other essentials like food or heating, give up TV altogether, or keep watching without a licence, in breach of the law.
‘Plus, there’s the over-75s whose income is just a few pounds or even pence too high for them to qualify for pension credit. As the disastrous impact of the BBC’s plan on some of our ‘oldest old’ becomes apparent, we hope this will bring the corporation and the Government back to the table.’
TV Licensing insisted the elderly would not be hounded and that it ‘considerably increased’ staff in its customer support office for when applications began.