Politics

BBC bosses accused of ‘massaging figures’ in over-75s TV licence fee row

BBC TV licence fee for over 75s branded a ‘scandal’ by Anderson

BBC bosses have been accused of “massaging” figures over how many over-75s are paying for TV licences. Silver Voices, which campaigned against the £157.50 charge on older pensioners, claims difficult customers are being “bought off” with a free licence, despite not being eligible. Group director Dennis Reed said before the fee was introduced last August, the BBC accepted it would hit 4.6 million OAPs, but it progressively reduced that figure to 4.2 million.

Mr Reed added sheltered housing residents were “thrown into the mix” to create confusion around the figures.

He said: “The BBC is trying to pretend their programme to persuade or bludgeon the over-75s to pay their TV licence fee is going to plan, when the reality is quite different. They keep reducing the number of non-payers by massaging the figures and refuse to answer straight questions.

“There is also evidence that difficult customers are being bought off locally with free licences, even though they don’t qualify for them.

“All this false news does not alter the facts that up to one million over-75s have still not paid for their licence and attitudes are hardening among this hard core of refuseniks.”

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Last week the Daily Express highlighted the case of Royal Navy veteran Harry Baker, 78, who said he would go to prison rather than pay for a TV licence.

But after protesting to TV Licensing, the widower was told he was exempt from the fee for three years.

Mr Reed said two Silver Voices members were offered pension credit eligibility despite providing no ­evidence and the response from BBC executives was “evasive”.

TV Licensing says the changing figures are explained by deducting the number of OAPs in residential care, who do not have to pay for a licence.

It said there were no exceptions to TV licensing requirements.

A spokesman said: “We have been clear and transparent throughout and provided regular updates on the numbers of older customers transitioning to the new system.”

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