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Express & Star comment: Vulnerable pensioners must not suffer over end of free TV licences

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

Age Concern is right to raise concerns about the impact elderly people will feel as they struggle to pay for TV licences.

The BBC is facing criticism after ending free TV licences for those aged over 75

The end of the free licence for aged over 75 will have a huge impact on pensioners – especially those who are by no means rich but have just enough income or savings to be deemed able to pay.

At a time in life when many are struggling with infirmity or illness, it feels wrong that one of the few comforts of old age is being withdrawn.

We are fully aware that there is a significant cost of providing a free licence to over-75s.

And we are also aware of the manner in which the Government has passed the buck to the BBC by transferring responsibility for the concession to our national broadcaster.

Successive Governments has raised pensions and benefits so that the elderly no longer face the sort of impoverished final years that was formerly commonplace.

However, Age Concern is entirely right to point out just how important TV is to elderly people as a way to ease isolation.

Loneliness is a scourge for our elderly, who all too often have nobody to talk to and whose only daily contact is frequently a postal worker.

There is a national debate to be had here. Is it time for the licence fee as a whole to be looked at?

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In an age of multi channels, should we all be funding a non commercial organisation that is ever expanding not just in broadcasting but in online print journalism too?

The BBC is a great institution and does great work – but it also has none of the commercial pressures placed on rival media organisations.

PM Boris Johnson and his key advisors seem intent on reimagining the space in which the BBC operates and Aunty Beeb appears more vulnerable than ever.

The man at the helm, Sir Tony Hall, is departing, the organisation continues to reel from the scandal of gender-biased pay and there are more competitors than ever looking to challenge it’s former dominance.

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A re-organisation is along the tracks.

That may mean an eventual end to the TV licence for all.

In the meantime, steps should be taken to ensure vulnerable pensioners do not suffer by losing one of their only pleasures in life.

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