Tim Davie, the BBC’s new director general, was it seems, too high and mighty to respond to the hundreds of letters we recently handed over from pensioners unhappy about the Corporation’s decision to get the over-75s to pay for a TV licence.
Here, we answer the questions the public-funded broadcaster would rather you did not ask.
I am 75 and have heard nothing from TV Licensing. So do I not have to pay the £157.50 annual bill?
No. There is no need to chase the Corporation, but the meter started ticking on payments from August 1 – the date when it started charging those aged 75 and over for a previously free TV licence. So you already ‘owe’ about £30. It is their job to chase you for the cash and not your duty to contact TV Licensing first.
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I have already received letters from TV Licensing but have thrown them in the bin. Will I go to prison if I do not pay?
Sadly, your payment problem will not disappear by ignoring demands.
Eventually, an enforcement officer will knock on your front door – though they cannot come inside without permission. Licence evasion will no longer be a criminal offence under new rules currently being discussed. That means you can no longer be thrown into jail for not paying a fine.
But it would not stop the BBC sending round bailiffs and threatening you with a county court judgment. The maximum fine the BBC can impose is £1,000 but the average penalty for non-payment is about £176.
I am retired and simply cannot afford £157.50 a year for a colour TV licence. What can I do?
If you are living on a retirement income of less than £174 a week, you might be able to get a free TV licence by claiming Pension Credit. As many as 1.5million fail to claim this entitlement despite being eligible for it.
Call the Pension Service on 0800 731 0469 to find out more. Alternatively, join the 7,000 homes who are happy to watch their favourite programmes on a black and white TV. This licence costs just £53 a year.
Can I pay in instalments?
The BBC is desperate for you to pay in advance via direct debit. You can pay £26.25 a month for the first six months of a year for a colour TV licence – then £13.12 a month thereafter.
It means that after the first six payments, you are effectively paying six months in advance. Alternatively, you can pay £40.62 a quarter – but will end up £4.98 a year out of pocket.
Another option is a TV Licensing payment card. This lets you pay by phone, text, online or at a shop that accepts PayPoint payments.
At the start of the year, you pay £6.50 a week for three weeks. Then you move on to paying £6 a week for the next 23 weeks.
After this, you can cancel payments or choose to pay every fortnight – this way you are paying the licence fee six months in advance. If you do this, the first three instalments will be £6.50 a fortnight followed by £6.00 every two weeks for the rest of the year.
Those in financial difficulties should contact debt charity StepChange to see if it can get TV Licensing to accept weekly payments of £3.
Are there any ways of enjoying TV entertainment without paying for a licence?
Therules are clear. Watch or record any live TV programmes – whether on the BBC or a rival channel such as ITV or Sky – and you must pay. This is not just for viewing on a TV, but a computer, tablet or mobile phone.
Also, if you use the BBC iPlayer – even if not watching live TV – you must pay the licence fee.
To escape payment, stick to a non-live content provider. These include catch-up services offered by ITV Player, All 4, My 5, Now TV, Apple TV, Netflix and Amazon.
Subscription service BritBox – which includes BBC content – can also be enjoyed without a TV licence. You can listen to the radio, including BBC stations, without a licence, as well as watch videos online using services such as YouTube.
Are there concessions if I am blind or deaf as I cannot take full advantage of the BBC service?
If blind or ‘severely sight impaired’, you can pay half price – £78.75 – for a colour TV licence. As proof, send one of four documents to TV Licensing along with a completed application form: a certificate of visual impairment (CVI), a ‘BD8’ certificate, a local authority certificate or a document from an eye surgeon confirming your condition. There is no concession for the deaf or hard of hearing. But if you have a disability that you believe TV Licensing should take into account, contact it on 0300 790 6076.
What if I live in a care home or sheltered housing?
You will probably not have to pay the full TV licence. Instead, you must hand over £7.50 a year for ‘accommodation for residential care’ (ARC) – whether living in a room, flat or bungalow.
Your care home manager or warden should tell you about this.
What is the BBC doing with the money it will now make from pensioners?
We hand over £3.5billion a year as licence fee payers, while the BBC’s income from sales tops this up to about £5billion.
At the top of the Corporation’s fat cat management sit a hundred bosses paid more than £150,000 each a year – salaries higher than the Prime Minister – to look after about 19,000 staff. They are involved in key decisions such as committing £100 million to boost diversity – and handing presenter Zoe Ball a £1million salary rise to £1.36million a year to help bridge the sexist pay gap to top earning £1.75 million-a-year sports presenter Gary Lineker.