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10 Jun 2019

BBC scraps free TV licences for up to 3.7m over-75s: will you have to pay?

The pension perk is due to be cut in June 2020

Up to 3.7 million pensioners who were expecting to receive a free TV licence will now have to pay for it, as the BBC drastically reduces its free offering for over-75s.

The change will come into force in June 2020, and will affect most people over the age of 75. Only households containing one person who receives Pension Credit will still be eligible for the free service.

Find out how the TV licence rules work, and what the changes will mean for you.

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Why are the free TV licences being scrapped?

The BBC said the changes are a result of a recent consultation of 190,000 people, which saw 52% in favour of reforming or abolishing free licences.

The move follows a report from the House of Lords, which suggested various ways in which benefits that currently only help older people could be better distributed throughout the generations.

The report suggested that free TV licences for over-75s should be reassessed, saying the BBC should not have to shoulder the burden of subsidising those who are retired.

What do the TV licence changes mean for pensioners?

Up until now, everyone over the age of 75 has been entitled to a free TV licence.

From June 2020, however, this will no longer be the case, although some people may still qualify for an exemption. We answer your most pressing questions below.

Do you need a TV licence?

You must pay for a TV licence if you watch or record live TV (which means you're watching at the same time as the programme is being broadcast), either through your TV or through a website.

This applies whether you receive Freesat, Freeview or a pay-TV service, whether or not you watch BBC channels, and whether or not you own your home.

You also need a TV licence to watch or download on-demand or catch-up programmes on BBC iPlayer.

The only instance where you won't need a TV licence is if you only use your TV to watch DVDs, Blu-rays or videos, or you only watch non-BBC channels on catch-up or on-demand - this would include services such as ITV Hub, Netflix and All 4.

How much is a TV licence?

As of 1 April 2019, a colour-TV licence costs £154.50, and a black-and-white licence costs £52.

If you currently receive the free over-75 TV licence, you won't need to pay until June 2020, when the prices will likely have changed.

From 2018 to 2019, the price jumped £4 for colour and £1.50 for black and white, so you can probably expect similar increases for next year.

You can either pay for the whole balance in one go, or spread the cost using direct debit (although paying quarterly will be £5 more expensive over the course of a year). You can pay via credit card or by making weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments in cash at shops and newsagents with PayPoint outlets.

Who qualifies for a TV licence exemption?

If someone in your household claims Pension Credit, the whole house will continue to receive a free TV licence.

The BBC has said that while 900,000 households are currently claiming Pension Credit, this number could be up to 1.5m by 2020. Indeed, the government recently suggested up to a third of eligible people have failed to claim it.

You can find out whether you're eligible, and how to make a claim, in our guide to Pension Credit.

If you don't receive Pension Credit, other reductions are available.

You may be eligible for a 50% discount in your TV licence fee if you've been certified as blind or severely sight impaired. Plus, if you're a care home resident, you may qualify for a reduced £7.50 TV licence fee.

Pensioners may also be entitled to other discounts and benefits. You can find out more in our guide to the perks and benefits of being retired.