The BBC could be forced to find £650m to pay for TV licences for over 75s.
Free TV licences are currently paid for by the Department for Work and Pensions, which means that over 75s across the UK don’t have to pay £145.50 a year to access BBC TV services.
According to a report in the Sunday Times [paywall], chancellor George Osborne is to announce the plans in the Summer Budget, which is to be delivered on Wednesday.
Osborne plans to eliminate the deficit in the UK’s public purse and has claimed to have found £12bn in savings – but has so far failed to mention where these savings may come from.
Since 2010, the TV licence has been capped at £145.50 a year, which has had a freezing effect on the BBC’s finances.
One possible result of this real-terms pay cut is the closure of BBC Three. Last week, the BBC Trust recommended plans for youth-centric channel to be taken off the air and the bulk of its content split between BBC One and BBC Two. A new-look BBC Three, mainly featuring short-form video content, would begin life as an online-only channel.
It’s expected that BBC Three will be taken off the air next January, but a final decision will not be reached until September.
The licence fee, a major source of income for the BBC, may also be for the high jump. Culture secretary John Whittingdale headed a committee earlier this year which called for the introduction of a broadcasting tax.
While this would see everyone contributing to the BBCm regardless of whether or not they watch it, it would remove the need for TV licence inspections, effectively decriminalising non-payment of licence fee-related court fines.