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BBC backlash: Ian Botham accuses BBC of 'moral crime' for demanding over-75s cough up cash

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Over-75s were entitled to a free television licence up until August last year, when pensioners were then forced to cough up the annual charge due to budget cuts. The latest BBC figures showed that out of an estimated 4.2 million households, around 2.8 million have paid the licence fee and about 750,000 have applied for a free one under a means-tested scheme. However, this means there are still hundreds of thousands who have not yet paid the fee.

Earlier this year, it was reported those who did not apply were sent a letter by the BBC with the threat they would face a fine of up to £1,000 and potential prosecution if they continued to watch live television without paying up.

Former England cricket captain Lord Botham lashed out at the corporation for charging pensioners licence fee payments in the first place.

In a new letter to The Telegraph, Lord Botham wrote: “Viewers can see that the moral crime here is that the BBC has broken its promise to the over-75s that it would pay for their licences.

“A grassroots revolt against the licence fee is under way, and it is being led by pensioners.

“The BBC is one scandal away from a wholesale licence fee rebellion.”

He added it was not surprising “that the BBC is haemorrhaging cash because of non-payment of the licence fee”.

The letter which originally sparked outrage was reported to have said: “We will cancel your licence if you do not reply to our letter within two months of receiving it.”

The BBC previously told Express.co.uk it had not cancelled any licences for over-75s since the scheme began last year.

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He said: “I regret the decision they made for television licences not to continue to be free for that age group.

“I’m glad that they’re not continuing to prosecute and threaten people in that way, but I’m not a supporter of the licence fee and I think we should get rid of it.

“I don’t think we should be forced to pay for the BBC, if that is something we want to do then we can, but they have demonstrated over the last decade or so that they have failed on many occasions to be an impartial broadcaster.”

A spokesperson for the BBC previously told Express.co.uk the decision not to prosecute over-75s was not an amnesty but rather “giving people time to get safely set up”.

They added that anyone applying for a licence late must backdate it to August 2020.

The spokesperson said: “There is no amnesty, nor have we announced any new policy, we are simply giving more people time to safely set up their licences in light of the pandemic.”

It comes as the licence fee is set to increase from £157.50 to £159 on Thursday, April 1.

The black and white licences will also be rising from £53.00 to £53.50.

Express.co.uk has contacted the BBC for a comment.



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