Advertisement

BBC licence fee should be means-tested, elderly campaigners say

Lucy Frazer - BBC licence fee should be means-tested, elderly campaigners say
Lucy Frazer called the license fee 'anachronistic' - Shutterstock /Thomas Krych

The BBC licence fee should be means-tested, campaigners for the elderly have demanded ahead of a government review of the levy.

Lucy Frazer, the Culture Secretary, announced this week that the licence fee would rise by £10.50 to £169.50 annually, but said such increases could not continue and that a review would be launched to reexamine the “anachronistic” funding model.

Campaigners have now called on the Government to use the review, taking place next year, to transform the licence fee into a means-tested system.

Silver Voices, a group which represents the interests of older viewers, believes that the review will provide an opportunity to make the licence fee fairer for those on lower incomes.

Dennis Reed, director of the group, said:  “The licence fee is a regressive tax. The poorest pay the same as the wealthiest.

“If there is going to be a licence fee, if there is going to be this tax, then it should be related to the ability to pay.  That is what we are calling for.”

An old woman watching BBC News
A group representing older viewers is arguing that the license fee should be means tested - PA

Mr Reed said the means-testing of payments has become even more important for pensioners following the latest increase, which follows the BBC’s decision to scrap the free licence fee for most over-75s in 2020.

In 2022, the House of Lords communications and digital committee raised the possibility that the BBC licence fee could be paid through a levy on council tax bills.

Under the Lords committee’s plan, households would pay for the BBC through bills to their local authority, and low-earning families who live in properties with lower council tax would in theory pay less for the broadcaster’s services.

The planned government review will consider all options for a reformed licence fee funding model, and an expert panel will be appointed to help lead the review of BBC funding.

A substitution or partial subscription model, which would require viewers to buy a package, is one of the commercial models which has been suggested in the past, including by BBC executives.

It is, however, understood that the corporation is concerned that any shift to a purely commercial footing would narrow the BBC’s offering and appeal, as strategy would shift to pleasing a narrow set of subscribers rather than the broader public.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.