Keep free TV licences for over-75s says MSP

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley

That was the fear voiced by service users at a day centre in Dunmurry run by the charity Age NI, where many older people have voiced concerns about how they are going to afford to pay for a TV licence.

"With Northern Ireland not having a government I'm afraid they'll bring in council tax or something like that and I don't know how we'd live if they brought that in".

Free licences will be restricted to over-75s who claim Pension Credit from June 1 2020.

The TV star said it is "wrong" to means-test older people after the corporation announced that, from June 2020, the concession will only be available to households where someone receives Pension Credit.

Following a public consultation, the BBC decided that means-testing pensioners and giving free licences only to those on pension credit is the fairest way.

The Government has legislated that it is the BBC's responsibility to decide on any future scheme and to pay for it.

As part of the charter agreement which came into effect in 2017, the BBC would take on the burden of paying for free licences by June 2020. "I've met lots of older people during my time visiting, for Age UK, and I do know that a lot of people's lifeline is watching the telly".

His comments come after Ben Fogle said the Government should be held accountable for its "poor decision" and made to reverse it.

The broadcaster said the futures of networks including BBC2 and BBC4, as well as radio stations, would have been at risk had the licences continued to be provided for nothing.

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Kim Lona Kendall: "It's a disgrace and they should be ashamed of themselves".

Maureen Sales explained that TV has become her "life" and "family" after her husband passed away 22 years ago.

"Without that, I've got nothing".

More than 230,000 people have signed a petition launched by Age UK calling for free television for the elderly to be protected, while tens of thousands more have added their names to petitions on the Labour and Parliament websites.

Funding the free licences, which have been available to all over-75s for almost two decades, is due to be transferred from the Government to the BBC next year as part of an agreement hammered out in 2015.

In a joint statement released on Monday, the BBC's chairman, Sir David Clementi, and director-general Tony Hall said continuing the Government's scheme would have had a "severe impact" on services and that the new model "represents the fairest possible outcome".

At present, nearly four million pensioners receive free licences.

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, added: "I believe that the Government should rethink its policy on TV licence provision and reinstate the full free licence for the over-75s".

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