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Television Licences: Older People

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN 162603, tabled on 3 March 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent discussions he has had with stakeholders on (a) providing a free TV licence for people aged over 75 and (b) decriminalising licence evasion for people aged over 75.

Answered on

10 March 2021

The Secretary of State meets regularly with a range of stakeholders, including the BBC. All DCMS ministerial meetings are disclosed on gov.uk, and the most recent can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dcms-ministerial-gifts-hospitality-travel-and-meetings-1-july-to-30-september-2020.

The government remains deeply disappointed with the BBC's decision to restrict the over 75 licence fee concession to only those in receipt of pension credit. However, the Digital Economy Act 2017 provides that the future of the over-75s concession is the responsibility of the BBC, not the government. The BBC is also responsible for the collection and enforcement of the TV licence fee.

The government has said that the BBC must look at how it uses its substantial licence fee income to support older people. As part of the 2022 licence fee settlement negotiations, the Secretary of State has asked the BBC to set out any further plans it has to support those in vulnerable groups, including the elderly.

The government also remains concerned that a criminal sanction for TV licence evasion is increasingly disproportionate and unfair in a modern public service broadcasting system, and will keep the issue under active consideration while more work is done to understand the impact of alternative enforcement schemes.