The BBC is planning to ask over 75s if they’d like to pay for their free TV licences.
Following news that the Corporation would have to absorb the cost of free licences, James Heath, director of policy at the BBC said that eligible households could choose to pay, if they wished.
Despite plans to unfreeze the licence fee cost – it’s been £145.50 for the last six years – and start charging everyone for use of iPlayer, whether they only watch catch-up or not, Heath says that licence fee funding for the BBC is forecast to be down by around 10 per cent.
Related: John Whittingdale’s plan to scrap the TV licenceHeath said that the BBC will ‘continue to make tough choices’ and pointed to the possible decriminalisation of fines relating to licence fee non-payment, which could cost the Corporation an extra £200 million.
Licence fee decriminalisation is expected to form part of the next BBC Charter Renewal discussions. The current BBC Charter is set to expire at the end of December 2016.
It’s not clear from when over 75s would be asked to start contributing. From 2018 onwards, the BBC will start to take on the cost of paying for over 75s licences, which are currently funded by the Department for Work and Pensions budget. By 2020/21, the BBC will become fully liable for all licence fee costs.
According to chancellor George Osborne’s summer budget, this is initially expected to cost the BBC £200 million, rising to £745 million by 2020/21. TV licences for over 75s have been free since 2001, when they were introduced by then-chancellor Gordon Brown.