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Television: Licensing

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 19th March 2020.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the number of people over 75 years old who will be confined to their homes due to COVID-19; and, in the light of that assessment, what plans they have to postpone the withdrawal of free TV licences for those over 75.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The Department of Health and Social Care is responsible for the government's response to COVID-19 and any assessment of the number of people over 75 years old who could be confined to their homes due to COVID-19. Although careful and scientific consideration is being given to all policy options, no final decisions have been taken over interventions that would require this.

The future of the over 75 licence fee concession is a matter for the BBC from 1 June 2020. This reform was subject to public discussion and debated extensively during the passage of the Digital Economy Act 2017 through Parliament.

However, the BBC and the government have been discussing the national Coronavirus situation. Changes to the TV licence for people aged over 75 had been due to come into effect on 1 June. But during this time we do not want anyone to be worried about any potential change.

The BBC’s priority over the coming period will be to do everything it can to serve the nation at this uniquely challenging time. As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a vital role to play in supplying information to the public in the weeks and months ahead.

Recognising the exceptional circumstances, the BBC Board has therefore decided to change the start date of the new policy. The current plan is to now bring it into place on 1 August and the BBC will keep the issue under review as the situation continues to evolve.

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