Four out of five people back campaign for TV licences

Licence Crisis: The BBC said it stands to lose a fifth of its budget.
Licence Crisis: The BBC said it stands to lose a fifth of its budget.

Most people want the Government to stick to a manifesto promise to fund free TV licences for over-75s, a poll by charity Age UK has found.

It was announced that the benefit would be slashed as the government handed funding responsibility to the BBC.

The broadcaster said the decision would cost around a fifth of its budget and it would be forced to either scrap vast swathes of its programming or remove the free licence benefit for over-75s.

The Express and its sister titles have called on the government to take action to reinstate free licences.

A petition set up by Age UK has received nearly 600,000 signature in support of the move.

And the charity has carried out research with younger as well as older TV viewers after it was confirmed the benefit would be restricted to those on pension credit.

The charity stated that 83 per cent of those surveyed – aged 18 and over – said the Conservative Party should keep its manifesto promise to fund free licences until 2022.

Charity director Caroline Abrahams said the research reflected “solid support for maintaining free TV licences for our over-75s”.

She added: “What jumps out is how strong and consistent public opinion is on this issue, right across Great Britain – among men and women of all ages, all political persuasions, all levels of income, and in every region and country.”

The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Wright, distanced himself and said BBC bosses “must do better” on the issue. Mr Wright told MPs he has met with senior management at the corporation to discuss what more could be done.

Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson asked his opposite number if he could “live with” the decision to take TV licences away from widowers.

Mr Watson said: “Perhaps the most difficult part of growing old is the loss of a husband, wife or partner.

“The person you shared your every day and every thought with often over a lifetime.

“An estimated seven out of 10 widowers are going to lose their free TV licence.”

Mr Wright replied: “The decision that has been made is a decision to transfer this responsibility to the BBC. How the BBC choose to exercise their responsibility is, as they and we say, their responsibility.”