Chairs’s Blog: TV Licence Blues

Bert was a football fanatic and lifelong Birmingham City supporter.  He religiously took his daughters to home matches at St Andrew’s.  One of them later married me, and her passion for The Blues condemns our household to a certain sense of gloom – if not despair – most Saturday afternoons around 4.45pm.  We tread carefully.  Thanks, Bert, for that.  Later in life Bert relied on the telly for his football, and refereeing decisions dissected on Match of the Day were a reliable topic for animated conversation even towards the end of his life.

Of course, Bert benefited from the free TV Licence for over-75s, which the BBC has just announced it’s going to scrap, except for people in receipt of Pension Credit.  As I write, pensioners across the country are planning to march on their local BBC offices in protest.  Age UK, Len Goodman and our very own patron Esther Rantzen have called on the government to restore the benefit, and over half-a-million people have signed a petition in support.

Erosh would like the government to think again.  The telly is clearly an important source of comfort and perhaps companionship to many lonely elderly people. Indeed, as we highlight in our own good practice guide on tackling Loneliness and Social Isolation, 2/5 (3.9m) of all older people say TV is their main company. The free licence for over-75s was introduced in 1999.  We should do whatever we can to preserve it.   But most of my friends and colleagues support the BBC, who are clearly over a financial barrel.  The government has made them responsible for the free licence, with no extra funds to meet the cost.  My grown-up children don’t even have tellies.  They watch stuff on various devices but rarely watch traditional TV.  And they’re all struggling to pay off student loans and may reasonably object to paying through their taxes to support their well-off baby-boomer grandparents’ addiction to Killing Eve – or Match of the Day.  The different generations have very different habits and expectations.

As things stand, erosh members are already burdened with the very considerable administration of £7.50 concessionary licences for people living in defined sheltered schemes.  And don’t get me started on the definition of a ‘sheltered scheme’ used by the TV Licencing Authority.  Now, we’re scratching our heads thinking about how we can ensure as many of our elderly residents that don’t live in those schemes still receive the free licence next June.  We’ll work with what we have and do the best we possibly can – like we always do.  Older people who don’t live in sheltered or extra care housing may not get such good support.

I know that’s a bit of an inconclusive anti-climax to round this blog off with, so let me end on a high note.  The Blues may yet again for the third time in as many years have parted company with a talented manager for no very good reason.  But looking on the bright side, young midfielder Connie ‘Iniesta’ Scofield has signed a two-year contract for the women’s team.  So that’s a bit of good news for the club.  Bert would have been about 3% less depressed than he might otherwise have been.  But that’s enough football.  Normal service will be resumed for my next blog.  In the meantime, I encourage you to keep right on to the end of the road!

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