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  1. ITV Report

BBC agrees to pay for TV licences for over-75s from 2018

The BBC has agreed to pay for free TV licences for over-75s from 2018. Photo:

The BBC has agreed to meet the cost of free TV licences for viewers over the age of 75, the Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has said.

Addressing MPs in the Commons, he said the change would begin to be phased in from 2018-19 and the corporation will bear the full cost - currently £145.50 per person - by 2020-21.

ITV News' Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship reports:

The commitment made in the Conservative manifesto that all households with an over 75-year-old will be eligible to a free TV licence will be honoured throughout this Parliament.

As requested by the BBC, they will take responsibility for this policy from thereon.

– Culture Secretary John Whittingdale
John Whittingdale said the Government was pleased the BBC was further reducing its

The announcement came in response to an urgent question from Labour after the plans were reported over the weekend.

Mr Whittingdale also revealed:

  • Legislation will be brought forward in the next year to "modernise the licence fee" to cover public service broadcast catch-up TV
  • The licence fee is also expected to rise in line with the consumer price index (CPI) measure of inflation
The BBC's current charter runs until December 31, 2016. Credit: PA

Responding to the announcement, shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant called it an "utter shambles" as he hit out at the proposals being briefed to the media..

He also said Labour would oppose the plans if they amount to a "smash and grab raid" on the BBC.

If there is a means of protecting the public finances and at the same time securing the BBC's future, we will wholeheartedly support it.

But if this is just a smash and grab raid on the BBC, if it ends up undermining the BBC, then we will oppose you every step of the way.

– Shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant

Chris Ship says the cost of the free licences is approximately 17 percent of the BBC's total annual budget.

The Chancellor is expected to cut £650 million from the BBC's budget - the amount the Government currently spends on providing free television licences for the over-75s - when he delivers his Summer budget.

George Osborne is set to reveal cuts from the BBC's budget on Wednesday.

In a statement, Mr Osborne said the BBC taking on the "significant cost" of TV licences for the over-75s will ease "some of the pressure on taxpayers who have to meet the country’s welfare bill".

The BBC's director-general Tony Hall said: “We have secured the right deal for the BBC in difficult economic circumstances for the country."

This agreement secures the long term funding for a strong BBC over the next Charter period. It means a commitment to increase the licence fee in line with inflation, subject to Charter Review, the end of the iPlayer loophole and the end of the broadband ringfence. In the circumstances, the BBC has agreed take on the costs for free licence fees for over-75s, and after the next parliament, will take on the policy.

– BBC director-general Tony Hall