THE BBC will ditch its plans to scrap free TV licences for the over 75s over coronavirus, it was revealed today.
After joint talks between the Beeb and the Government, the plans to charge people the annual £157.50 fee from June 1 were put on hold until at least August.
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It comes amid fears that the elderly will be told to stay in their homes for up to four months to try and stop them from getting coronavirus.
Ministers said that plans were on the way in the coming weeks to try and shield older and more vulnerable from the deadly bug.
35 people in the UK have already died, and more than 1,300 cases have been reported so far.
Age UK said yesterday the elderly will be “even more reliant” on their TV and radio for entertainment during this “unprecedented situation” when they will be consigned to their homes, with family and friends unable to visit.
And they will also need to stay informed about developments in the coronavirus outbreak, with many elderly people not online like the rest of the country.
The BBC and Department for Culture, Media and Sport said this morning: “During this time we do not want anyone to be worried about any potential change.
“The BBC’s priority over the coming period will be to do everything we can to serve the nation at this uniquely challenging time.
“As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a vital role to play in supplying information to the public in the weeks and months ahead.
“Recognising the exceptional circumstances, the BBC Board has therefore decided to change the start date of the new policy. Our current plan is to now bring it into place on 1 August. We will of course keep the issue under review as the situation continues to evolve.”
It comes this morning as:
The BBC’s Chairman, Sir David Clementi, said of today’s BBC News: “We are in exceptional circumstances. Now is not the right time. We are fully focused on delivering our services to the public at this difficult time.”
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And Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden welcomed the news.
He added: “It will be welcome news to millions of older people who now don’t need to worry about their TV licence during this challenging period. It is right that the BBC have recognised the exceptional circumstances posed by the Coronavirus outbreak and the need for the whole country to pull together in the national effort.”