Pensioners pressured by 'nasty letters' to buy BBC TV Licence: 'They're putting fear into people!'

Pensioners pressured by 'nasty letters' to buy BBC TV Licence: 'They're putting fear into people!'

WATCH NOW: BBC Licence fee set to rise in April

GB News
Holly Bishop

By Holly Bishop

Published: 04/03/2024

- 22:04

Since 2020, only over-75s who receive pension credit are eligible for a free TV Licence

Pensioners feel pressured to pay the BBC TV Licence fee after receiving “frightening letters”, accusing officers of using “scaremongering tactics” to get them to pay.

An 84-year-old spoke to GB News about her experience of receiving “nasty letters” from the Simple Payment Plan (SPP) who told her she needed to pay or would be subject to a visit from enforcement officers.

Britons who watch any kind of live TV, not just BBC programming, are expected to pay their TV Licence fee, which is set to rise from £159 to £169.50 a year in April, in a move that has been widely criticised.

Anyone aged over 75 and receiving Pension Credit is entitled to a free TV Licence, however, those who do not qualify are still expected to pay.

Old woman watching TV/Letter from SPP

Pensioners feel pressured by 'nasty letters' to buy the BBC TV Licence, despite many being unaware they need to pay

Getty/GB News

A pensioner who was unaware that she needed to pay as she does not watch BBC programming spoke to GB News about her experience with the SPP which left her feeling “very upset”.

The 84-year-old, who wished to remain anonymous, said that she never watched live TV so did not apply for one. After beginning to watch GB News last summer, she was in “complete ignorance” that she would now need to pay for the licence.

She soon received two letters telling her she would need to pay. She reached out to GB News to clarify if this was the case, which they confirmed.

The pensioner explained: “As soon as you pointed that out to me in an email, I arranged to have a TV licence but prior to that, I had two of these have these nasty letters arrive.

“I rang up TV Licencing to tell them I didn’t like the tone of these letters that were coming. He didn’t sound interested at all that I was upset by the tone of the letters. He also didn’t go into any detail or explain more about what I would have to pay.”

The 84-year-old, who does not qualify for the free licence, admitted that she was in the wrong and was willing to pay, but did not appreciate the “tone” both the letters and the operator used towards her.

BBC sign

The BBC Licence Fee is set to rise next month


Both letters sent to her were identical and stated: “Your TV Licence has been cancelled because you have not paid for it. Now time is running out. You can make a fresh start by joining the Simple Payment Plan. But if we don’t hear from you as soon as possible, we will pass your details to one of our Enforcement Teams. If they find evidence you’re breaking the law, you risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.”

The 84-year-old said that the letters were “putting fear into people”, who often do not even realise that they need to pay.

She said: “A lot of us old people are unaware that we need a license, and some are annoyed we don’t qualify for a free one.

“I just think it’s just not very good for older people, they live on their own and they get frightened when they get letters like that. I think if they could explain it a bit better, in a kindly fashion, just say ‘if you have any doubts about whether you should have a licence, you can ring this number and we can talk this through’, rather than an enforcement order.

She concluded: “If they could alter the letter so it doesn’t put that fear into people”, adding: “It’s the tone of the letter I disagree with.”

The issue is prevalent across the UK, with enraged people taking to social media to vent their frustration at the “frail, elderly, single women that are being constantly bullied both by endless letters and doorstep visits”, as one user describes it.

One user allegedly witnessed TV Licence enforcement officers try to enter their elderly neighbour’s property and use “scaremongering tactics” to get them to pay.

They wrote online: “TV licence goons were in our street yesterday trying their luck again, tried to tell one of my elderly neighbours that they had the authority to enter their property to see if they are watching or recording live TV programmes without the permission of the person living there.”

They said that the couple’s son was there who then told the officers to leave.

“Shame on them trying to use their scaremongering tactics on an old couple. It’s shocking, makes you wonder how many other poor souls they are doing this to every day, making threats and trying to use underhand tactics to gain entry to people’s property,” they continued.

Rupert Lowe, former Brexit Party Member of the European Parliament, slammed the broadcaster for enforcing fines. He told GB News: “The BBC are a monopoly funded by a compulsory TV Licence, non-payment of which can result in a criminal record and prison!

“It is unacceptable for them to be stressing elderly people with heavy-handed debt collection tactics and I hope that the Conservative Government will bring them to book, particularly as they resiled on their arrangement to excuse licence fees to the elderly.”

The BBC told GB News: “Visiting Officers only visit a property after letters have been sent to the householder. The letters give them information on how to obtain a licence or let us know that no licence is needed.

Old man watching TV

The BBC licence fee was free to the over-75s until the BBC axed the concession in 2020.


“TV Licensing does its best not to trouble genuine non-viewers, but it has a duty to enforce the law. This is why, if a letter is not responded to, subsequent letters are worded to deter potential evaders. TV Licensing’s primary aim is to help people become correctly licensed. Prosecution is always a last resort. If a licence is not needed, the householder has the option to inform TVL.

“A visit (the first stage of prosecution) only takes place after letters have been sent and if there has been no contact with the address.”

They stressed that customer satisfaction with their call centre was high, and they were receiving minimal complaints.

The BBC also emphasised that they do not record the age of householders and visits are often made to properties where there is no named occupier.

The TV licence fee, which has been slammed as “unfair tax” by an ex-boss of the BBC, is seeing its biggest hike ever which will come into effect next month.

It was free to the over-75s until the BBC axed the concession in 2020.

Joanna Elson CBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age, told GB News that the TV is vital to so many elderly people and is calling for pension Credit uptake to be increased so more pensioners can get a free licence.

She said: “Older people on a low income often tell us that TV is their main source of company, as they can’t always afford to go out to meet friends and family. With increasing costs stretching the budgets of people in later life to breaking point, it is so important that everyone receives the support they are entitled to.

“Pension Credit can top up a person’s income in retirement and comes with a range of additional benefits that can be worth more than £7,000, including a free TV license for people over the age of 75. Despite the difference Pension Credit can make to someone’s life, uptake remains low with latest figures showing that up to 880,000 eligible people could be missing out.”

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