Watch: Age UK's mission to save free TV licences for over-75s

BBC has announced plans to means-test licences.

Age UK is calling on prime minister Boris Johnson to take back responsibility for funding TV licences for the over-75s, after the BBC announced plans to means-test the licences.

The charity believes this change will harm millions of older people who rely on their TV for companionship, news and entertainment. Many older people have told Age UK just how important their TV is to them, using phrases such as a "lifeline", "my link to the outside world", "not just a pastime but a necessity… my life-support machine".

More than four-fifths (83 per cent) of those polled by Age UK believe the Conservative Party should keep its manifesto pledge to fund free TV licences for the over-75s for the duration of this parliament.

From June 2020, the new plans will see over-75s required to buy a TV licence or "self-validate" that they are in receipt of Pension Credit, which entitles them to a free one.

If they are not able to do this, they will break the law by watching TV. The BBC has also announced that it is commissioning Capita to set up teams to visit older people in their homes if they are unable to complete the new process – an idea described as "threatening" by some commentators.

To take this fight to the government, Age UK turned the Treasury, Conservative Party headquarters and parliament into "switched off" TV sets.

The "#Switchedoff" campaign first launched in November 2018. The latest brief was to produce and execute visual creatives at the moment the new prime minister came into power. The work was created by Alpaca.

Peter Elms, director at Alpaca, said: "Bringing to life big ideas for things that really matter is what we come to work for.

"It turns out you really don’t have long to set up a living room in the middle of the road on Horse Guards Parade without men with big guns appearing and threatening to arrest you."

Age UK’s online petition to save the licences has surpassed the 600,000 mark.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said older people should not have to jump through hoops just to keep watching their TV. She said: "The idea that more than a million over-75s, who are coping with serious health and care challenges, will be able to comply with a new TV licence process, having never done so before, is cloud cuckoo land.

"This is what happens when a government tries to outsource social policy and delivery to a body like the BBC, with no experience or expertise in this field – nor with any in-depth understanding of our over-75s and their lives."

A version of this story first appeared on PRWeek

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