A message from our partner, Silver Voices:
MEMBERS’ BRIEFING 73/20
BBC AGREES ENFORCEMENT AMNESTY FOR THE OVER-75s
Following intense pressure from Silver Voices, the BBC has agreed that “at this time”, no enforcement visits will take place to households who previously held free licences and nor will enforcement letters be issued to this group. This is a major U-turn by the BBC and provides a window of opportunity for new discussions on the restoration of free licences for the over 75s.
Members will recall that we wrote to Tim Davie, Director General of the BBC (Briefing 71/20), calling for a six-month licence fee amnesty for the over 75s, during which no enforcement letters would be sent to such households, to see us through the second wave of the pandemic. This request was initially ignored, so Dennis Reed wrote again to Mr. Davie, as follows:
“Thank you for your email last night. I am sad and disappointed that you have ignored the main request in my email to you, for a six-month licence amnesty for over 75s’ households to see out the worst of the pandemic. Unlike other public sector bodies, the BBC is showing no compassion about the strained circumstances under which people are living at this time. In adopting a ‘business as usual’ approach you are threatening the mental health of some vulnerable very old people. I am now receiving many reports of threatening enforcement letters from TV Licensing and even reports of household visits during lockdown (which have serious public health implications). From now on we will be compiling such reports of harassment for public use. Please issue instructions that there should be no household visits from TV Licensing enforcers during this period of restrictions and that the delivery of red-topped enforcement notices will cease”.
Press interest in this exchange prompted the change of policy above being announced. This concession is significant, in that the 1.26 million over 75s who are still refusing to pay the licence fee will not be hassled, at least for a while. Of course, as things stand, they will still be liable for the fee at some future stage. We will continue to press the BBC to extend this amnesty indefinitely.
Silver Voices has also raised the propriety of ANY enforcement visits taking place to older people under 75 in current lockdown restrictions. Dennis Reed wrote this week to Clare Sumner, Director of Policy at the BBC arguing that “the dangers of doorstepping vulnerable people and calling on many households in a day are obvious and could result in super-spreading events”. Clare Sumner replied, “From early August we safely resumed visits having introduced a number of strict safety measures to minimize the risk of infection and maintain stringent hygiene standards. It is mandatory visiting officers wear face coverings, maintain a two-metre distance at all times and they do not enter people’s homes”. These measures appear not to have been reviewed since lockdown restrictions were imposed!
Members are asked to report the circumstances of any visits by enforcement officers during this lockdown period so that we keep a track of what is happening on the ground. Also, any over 75s who receive red-topped enforcement notices should let the office know, as we will be maintaining contact with the BBC at senior level.
The BBC is boasting in its press releases that 70% of over 75s households have now reached an agreement with the BBC on their licence arrangements. They reach this figure by downgrading the number of UK households requiring a licence by 300,000 and including the 700,000 who are eligible for free licences because they receive pension credit. Even on these dubious figures, that leaves 1.26 million over 75s households who are either refusing to pay or unable to pay, their licence fees.
That is why the licence enforcement amnesty is so important in buying time for public pressure to mount on the Government and the BBC to restore free licences.
14 November 2020