BBC bosses agreed to delay imposing the fee on the over-75s until August after the virus plunged the UK into crisis. MPs and peers insist it must be postponed indefinitely and called for the government to intervene. But, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has written to the group insisting it is up to the BBC to decide what to do next.
Leading campaigner Lord Foulkes said free licences were now more crucial than ever.
“This is a growing scandal,” he said. “While the Government is rightly bailing out industries and paying workers on furlough, old, vulnerable and lonely people, who rely increasingly on their TV for information and entertainment are facing a huge extra cost.
“Many will now be in fear of having to lose their TV or face prosecution for non-payment.”
The BBC signed a deal to take over responsibility for free licences during negotiations on its charter renewal but later decided to cut back the concession.
Mr Dowden said the over-75s had been due to start paying the £157.50 annual bill from June 1 “but during this time we do not want anyone to be worried about any potential change” so it had been pushed back to August 1.
The Cabinet minister said the corporation “will keep this under review as the situation continues to evolve” and any changes “are the responsibility of the BBC, not of the government”.
Jan Shortt, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said: “The free TV licence for over-75s has never been so needed as it is now with older people confined to their homes because of COVID-19.
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