People aged 75 and over will have to pay their TV Licence fee if they wish to watch live television from August 1, the BBC has confirmed.
Over-75s are currently exempt from paying the £157.50 fee, which is compulsory for any household that watches live television.
The controversial decision has been labelled unfair by critics. However, the BBC has defended the decision saying it will prevent “unprecedented closures” of services.
The TV licence funds BBC shows and services, including TV, radio, the BBC website, podcasts, iPlayer and apps.
Almost £3.7bn was raised by the licence fee in 2019, accounting for about 76% of the BBC’s total income of £4.9bn.
In a statement, BBC Chairman Sir David Clementi, said the decision had “not been easy”, but the broadcaster is “under severe financial pressure” and a further delay would have had an impact on programmes.
Anybody receiving Pension Credit – a top up benefit for people receiving a state pension – will not have to pay the fee.
Pensioners who receive a state pension payment of less than £173.75 (for single people) or £265.20 (for couples) per week are eligible for Pension Credit.
However, it is estimated that over a third of people eligible for Pension Credit do not claim it and will have to pay the licence fee despite being eligible for exemption.
According to the latest data from the Office of National Statistics, 94,496 people applied for Pension Credit in Wales in 2018.
Age Cymru has voiced its disappointment at the decision, saying it is unfair on people who have already endured a difficult time during the coronavirus pandemic.
The charity’s chief executive, Victoria Lloyd, said: “Many pensioners will find it impossible to find the £150 and will either ditch their TV or cut back on essentials such as food or fuel.
“For many older people who live alone TV is their main source of companionship and not having one could have serious implications for their mental health and wellbeing. It could also mean that older people will miss out on accessing crucial information as we enter the recovery phase of Covid-19.
“The decision is particularly cruel as comes at a time when many older people are either shielding or maintaining social isolation and therefore depend on their TV more than ever.”
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Both Age Cymru and the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales have called on the UK Government to step in and cover the fee.
The Conservative Party pledged to maintain funding for free TV licences for people over the age of 75 in its 2019 UK General Election manifesto.
Heléna Herklots, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, added: “We know that over half of the 260,000 older people in Wales aged 75 or over live alone and for many, television is their only companion and their primary source of news and entertainment.
“Relative income poverty amongst older people is increasing. One in five older people in Wales is now trapped in persistent poverty, and the loss of the free TV licence will exacerbate this for many.”
You can check whether you are eligible for a Pension Credit claim by phoning 0800 99 1234, or checking online.
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