Susanna Reid broke down this morning as an elderly woman begged her to stop the BBC snatching away her main source of entertainment as Piers Morgan pledged to pay for a veteran’s TV licence.
The Good Morning Britain presenters used today’s show to demand the broadcaster reverse its decision to scrap free licences for over-75s, branding it an ‘outrage’.
Piers called on politicians to join their campaign against the decision, saying: ‘Shame on the BBC for doing this, they should be forced to do a U-turn and cave on this.’
He raged at the decision as he pointed out that veterans who have just been honoured for their bravery on D-Day would be among those hit.
‘So we’re going to make D-Day veterans pay £154 for their TV licences?’ he tweeted. ‘What an absolute disgrace. Shame on you, BBC.’
The hosts encouraged people to call in and share their disgust as they called on the corporation to rethink the move.
Pensioner Josephine urged the broadcaster to ‘get in the real word’ during the phone-in as she said it will hit her husband particularly hard and accused the corporation of targeting elderly people.
When asked if she had a message for Tony Hall, Josephine branded the director-general ‘old fashioned’ and slammed him for ‘penalising the elderly’.
As Susanna called the move an ‘outrage’, she told the caller: ‘My heart breaks for you.’
Piers Morgan branded the scrapping of the licence fee ‘terrible’ as Susanna Reid said it was an ‘outrage’ while Josephine cried to them on the phone
Susanna Reid broke down on Good Morning Britain today as Josephine described the impact scrapping the licence would have on her husband
While she fought back tears, Piers called on the 10 contenders for the Conservative Party leadership to make clear what they would do as Prime Minister.
Who used to cover the cost of free TV licences and when did politicians pass the cost onto the BBC?
The Department for Work and Pensions used to shoulder the bill for free TV licences, but the responsibility was handed to the BBC in 2015.
This had saddled the broadcaster with a bill of at least £745million from 2021, rising to more than £1billion by 2029. In return, the Government gave the BBC permission to either limit or remove the entitlement.
The BBC announced yesterday that it had decided to restrict free TV licences to poorer pensioners – a move that will still cost it £250million a year. The corporation said the change was needed to avoid ‘profoundly damaging closures’ to services and channels.
Although 900,000 households are on pension credit another 600,000 do not take advantage of the benefit – either through stigma or fear of excessive paperwork. Were they to start claiming – allowing them a free licence – the Treasury’s £5.4billion bill for pension credit could soar.
Under the new rules elderly women will be particularly at risk of being dragged through the courts – and potentially to jail – because they are convicted of licence fee evasion more frequently than men.
According to the most recent data, 184,595 Britons were charged with non-payment of the TV licence in 2016. Around 140,000 were taken to court, 21,300 of which were found not guilty and 90 people were jailed for failing to pay court-issued fines.
Tories Tobias Ellwood, Esther McVey and Ruth Davidson joined Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson in backing the GMB campaign.
Josephine left fans of the show in tears as they took to Twitter to express sympathy for her and others.
One wrote: ‘Well Josephine on Good Morning Britian #GMB has made me cry. That’s a reality.’
Another tweeted: ‘Listening to pensioners on @GMB reduced to tears because the @BBC are taking away their lifeline is utterly heartbreaking.’
Other viewers raged against the decision and the impact it will have on military veterans as Piers Morgan pledged to pay the TV licence fee for a D-Day veteran who flirted with Melania Trump during the US President’s state visit.
Thomas Cuthbert, a guest on yesterday’s show, is among those who face losing out.
The 93-year-old joked with Donald Trump ‘if I was 20 years younger’ when he met the president and first lady during their state visit.
After his remarks hit headlines, the veteran told the show’s presenters that he had no idea what came over him.
His daughter called in to tell the show today: ‘He’s going to be pretty angry – the veterans, all the elderly depend on the TV.
‘It’s their lifeline. It makes you wonder what they are going to do next to them.’
As she feared that her father would have to make difficult decisions about his money despite the family helping out, Piers said: ’I will pay his TV licence as long as he needs.
‘Whatever happens – he moved us so much. Take it from me – I will pay for his licence.’
A BBC Spokesperson said people in paying £7.50 for licence in care homes, supported housing and sheltered accommodation will still receive that cheaper deal.
‘TV Licensing will also be providing face to face assistance for older people through an outreach programme delivered by specially trained staff, for example through meetings in community centres,’ they said. ‘We’re also introducing a new pay as you go payment plan for pensioners aged 75 or over who are now eligible to pay which will include smaller fortnightly or monthly installments.’
Pictured: Thomas Cuthbert meets President Trump and First Lady Melania. He hit headlines during the state visit for saying ‘if I was 20 years younger’
Carole Monk (far-left), daughter of Thomas Cuthbert (pictured on yesterday’s Good Morning Britain) told today’s show that he faces difficult decisions before Piers pledged to pay his licence for him
Q&A: When will the new charge be introduced and will I be affected?
When will the licence fee change come in?
June 1, 2020
Who will be affected?
Anyone over the age of 75 will lose their exemption – except those on pension credit.
How many households could be exempt?
Around 3million UK households are eligible for a pension credit – which tops up weekly income to £167.25 for a single person or £255.25 for a couple. People who reached state pension age before April 2016 can also apply for up to £15.35 per couple per week if they have savings.
Half of those households – 1.5million – have residents over the age of 75, so would be eligible for a free TV licence. However, only around 900,000 actually claim the benefit.
How do I obtain pension credit?
Aimed at retired people on low incomes, both single people and couples, it is means tested but can be worth thousands of pounds a year. Call the pension credit claim line on 0800 99 1234. They will fill in the application for you over the phone.
You need your national insurance number and bank details along with information about your finances including savings, mortgages, investments and any other assets.
How do you claim a free TV licence?
You will have to show TV Licensing – the arm of the BBC in charge of collecting the charge – proof that you receive pension credit. This could be a copy of the letter you received from the Department for Work and Pensions.
How will it be policed?
TV Licensing will develop and operate an ‘independent self-verification system’ online. It will also provide pensioners who think they are entitled to the pension credit, but do not claim it, details of how to do this.
How much will the new scheme cost?
The continued exemptions will cost the BBC £250million a year, including the bill for hiring extra staff to talk to elderly pensioners about the changes face to face.
That is the equivalent to the budget for Radio 4, Radio 2, the BBC News Channel and some local radio stations.
Where will the BBC get this money from?
£100million from recent savings efforts that was supposed to go into programming and the £150million a year previously committed to the national roll-out of rural broadband.
The broadcaster was freed from that obligation as part of its 2015 deal with government.
Why not tap the high-paid stars?
Bosses rejected cutting tlaent pay because capping salaries at £150,000 would save only around £20million a year.
Could I go to jail if I don’t pay?
Non-payment of the TV licence is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine of up to £1,000, plus court costs. Disobeying the court and not paying that fine can land you in jail.
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