PENSIONERS protesting against the abolition of free TV licences for over-75s have accused the government of letting down veterans of the Second World War and the generation who ‘helped rebuild the country’.
Speaking at a protest outside the BBC studios in Gunwharf Quays, former Royal Navy submariner, Cyril Saunders, 82, said: ‘All of our politicians recently made a big thing about the D-Day veterans, the war generation and the debt owed to them. Many of these veterans will now have to pay £154 for their TV licence. Actions speak louder than words - we put this country back on its feet after the war and this is the thanks we get.’
While the BBC announced the decision the pensioners universally pointed their finger of blame at the government. Up until 2015, the cost of free TV licences was covered by the government. However, the Conservative government struck a deal under which the subsidy would be phased out by 2020, with the broadcaster having to shoulder the costs.
President of the Portsmouth Pensioners Association, Alan Burnett, 78, said: ‘Effectively the government passed the buck and placed the burden of responsibility to cover the £600m cost onto the BBC.’
Chairman, Steve Bonner, 71, added: ‘The responsibility lies firmly with the government who were looking to save face as they knew this decision would cause a backlash.’
Faced with this additional cost the BBC believe continuing to provide free licences for the over-75s would result in ‘unprecedented closures’ and would see it ‘lose a fifth of its budget by 2021’.
The BBC intend to maintain free licences for low income pensioners on Pensioners Credit.
BBC director general, Tony Hall, said: ‘It wouldn’t be right simply to abolish all free licences. Equally it wouldn’t be right to maintain it given the very profound impact that would have on many BBC services.’
However, 80-year-old Cosham resident Anne Gleave said: ‘The BBC pays multi-million pound contracts to some of their presenters yet are taking out these cuts on pensioners.’
Mike Barrie, 90, added: ‘Older people can have health and mobility issues and rely on their television. I seldom leave my flat and my TV is a source of company.’
The policy will result in around 10,000 Portsmouth pensioners now having to pay for a licence.