Published On: Fri, Aug 23rd, 2019

BBC licence fee: 900,000 war heroes stripped of free TV licence – ‘A national disgrace!’ | UK | News

They will be forced to cough up £154.50 as the Government and the BBC stubbornly refuse to give way. It is thought that at least 101,779 ­former armed forces personnel affe­cted by the ­scandal are aged over 90. Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson said: “It’s a national disgrace that more than 900,000 armed forces veterans may lose their free TV licences because of this Government’s refusal to fund the concession. I urge Boris Johnson and his Defence Secretary, who is supposed to represent veterans’ interests, to think again.” 

Official figures analysed by Age UK show there are 1,120,012 armed forces veterans over the age of 75 in Britain. 

Under current arrangements they are all eligible for a free TV licence. But from June 1 only those in receipt of Pension Credit will be able to get one when the benefit is means tested. 

Overall 80 percent of the elderly who rely on the TV as company and a window on the world – around 3.7 million people – will lose the concession. 

Nineteen percent of those aged 75 or over currently receive Pension Credit – around 1,046,833 people. 

Brigadier James Stopford, who served with the Irish Guards for 36 years and is now chief executive of The Not Forgotten Association, an armed forces charity, said: “This lacks compassion. This year we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings and next year we will commemorate the end of the Second World War. 

“It is a sad thing to do to all those who have served their country, but particularly those who have done so wearing ­uniform. The Prime Minister could reconsider.” 

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “It is outrageous to think there are so many older veterans who fought for our country being faced with having their licence taken away. 


Activists have taken to the streets to voice their anger at the threat to free TV licences (Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

“Thousands of older people have told us just how much they rely on their TV – particularly the lonely, sick and disabled. 

“We know some would have to start rationing heating or food if they were faced with having to pay for a licence. Stripping older people of their free TV licence risks leaving them without one of their few pleasures in life and this cannot be right.” 

Free licences for the over-75s were introduced by Chancellor Gordon Brown in 2000. 

His successor George Osborne struck a deal with the BBC in 2015 in which they picked up the bill from 2020/21 as part of a charter renewal. But the 2017 Conservative manifesto had a pledge to continue the benefit. 

The Daily Express and its army of loyal readers have led a ­campaign demanding an end to the injustice. The BBC said continuing to fund free TV licences would cost it “£745million a year and rising”, which it could not afford if it wanted to continue to make popular programmes such as Line of Duty, Bodyguard and Strictly Come Dancing. 

But the decision to scrap the perk comes after its accounts showed £159million was spent on presenter pay last year – up almost £11million in a year – with Match of the Day host Gary Lineker leading the way on a £1.75million salary. 

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown (Image: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Four-fifths of people polled by Age UK think the Conservative Party should keep its manifesto pledge to fund free TV licences. 

In June an angry delegation from the National Pensioners Convention marched on the BBC to make their voices heard over the TV licence scandal. 

Outside New Broadcasting House, the corporation’s central London headquarters, they chanted “Don’t Switch Us Off” in a vocal demand for the perk to be reinstated. 

The BBC said: “We know some veterans – and indeed other older people – are vulnerable, so will provide additional support. 

“We’ve committed to working with organisations that represent older people, including The Royal British Legion, to help raise the visibility of Pension Credit.” 

A Government spokesman said: “We’re disappointed with the BBC’s decision – we expected it to ­continue this concession. 

“Taxpayers want to see the BBC using licence fee income in an appropriate way, including restraint on salaries for senior staff.” 

Veteran Vic Farmer

Vic Farmer says TV is vital after his wife died (Image: Tim Clarke)


We have more than three million veterans in our country. More than one million of them are over the age of 75. 

Well done them. It’s hard enough being 65, trust me on that one. 

The TV licence has always seemed a bit funny to me. 

I thought it was great when I was employed by the BBC but now I’m not so sure. 

With so many channels to choose from I believe the BBC should thank their lucky stars that people still want to pay. You have to pay even if you don’t watch the channel. 

Now the BBC in its wisdom is scrapping the free licence for over-75s, but what about our veterans? 

Is this just another way of saying thanks for your service? 

Vic Farmer with crew

Vic Farmer with crew (Image: Tim Clarke)

A lot of our veterans have given great service to this country above and beyond what us civilians have done, certainly me anyway. I don’t think it’s fair for them to watch the BBC leftie showcase Question Time and have to pay for the privilege. 

It’s enough to make you fix bayonets. 

My charity Care After Combat lobbied for a veterans department and we now have it, lead by the formidable Johnny Mercer. I hope he sorts this out. 

Then perhaps the BBC will see many over-75s simply can’t afford the licence fee. 

The BBC represents the best in broadcasting so why doesn’t it set an example by repaying a debt of gratitude to all our veterans and find the money for their licence fees? 

If they did that then perhaps people would stop saying “scrap the licence fee”. 

Jim Davidson is Care After Combat co-founder

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