BBC ‘backed into corner’ as licence fee revolt to erupt – 3m over-75s gear up for boycott

BBC licence fee: Caller says she will 'not pay anymore'

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Since last August all over-75-year-olds have been required to purchase a TV licence to watch the BBC unless they receive pensions credit. The scrapping of the free perk has led to widespread civil disobedience against the broadcaster, with a number of older people simply refusing to pay.

It’s thought as many as 730,000 people could be refusing to cough up the £159 a year fee.

In February the broadcaster announced it would not be taking enforcement action on those who were yet to pay and would instead give over-75s more time to make the payment.

Dennis Reed, director of Silver Voices, claimed there was “a huge number of people who paid under duress” this year for the licence fee.

Now the BBC has softened its tone, he said some of those will be likely to boycott the payment next year.

“If there are three-quarters of a million people who haven’t paid, then the other three million are going to think hard before they pay next year,” he told

“They have pushed themselves into a corner and I think they are just hoping that this softly, softly approach will whittle down the numbers to a manageable number and they’ll be able to say ‘there’s only a few left, we’ll just continue trying to enforce it’.

“But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

“People that got very fed up with the hard-line that was taken are now laughing because nothing has changed, the BBC is not taking legal action.

“And they think, quite rightly on principle, many of them, are not paying this licence fee because they think it should be restored and will now continue with that battle.”

The BBC has denied the softening of its approach amounts to an “amnesty” and said it still expected over-75s to make arrangements to cover the licence fee cost.

“There is no amnesty, nor have we announced any new policy,” a BBC spokeswoman said at the time.

“We are simply giving more people time to safely set up their licences in light of the pandemic.”

In a statement the broadcaster said: “We fully recognise this is a tough time for many people, which is why we are giving people plenty of time to get set up and there are payment plans available to help spread the cost.”

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But Mr Reed said the change in approach would likely cause problems for the broadcaster in future.

He said: “They’ve softened their line further as we’re going out of the pandemic.

“They’re saying ‘what can we do to help you’ rather than ‘you must pay the licence fee’.

“So they’ve softened their line considerably in the last few weeks.

“It’s going to be more and more difficult for the BBC to then suddenly go back to the hard-line of ‘you must pay up or you’ll be breaking the law and may get fined’.

“It’s going to be very difficult for them to do that.”

The BBC took on the responsibility of covering the cost of the licence fee as part of its Royal Charter negotiations with the Government in 2015.

Until 2020 the Government has always covered the cost of the perk which was first introduced by Gordon Brown in 1999.

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