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125,000 people in Norfolk and Suffolk could lose free TV licence

PUBLISHED: 12:50 23 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:12 23 November 2018

More than 70,000 homes in Norfolk and 55,784 households in Suffolk are currently eligible for the free service.

More than 70,000 homes in Norfolk and 55,784 households in Suffolk are currently eligible for the free service.

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Pensioners are at risk of losing their free TV licence after the BBC takes on the responsibility in 2020.

The scheme is currently funded by the Government but the responsibility will shift to the BBC in two years time. Picture: Clara Molden/PA WireThe scheme is currently funded by the Government but the responsibility will shift to the BBC in two years time. Picture: Clara Molden/PA Wire

More than 125,000 over-75s in Norfolk and Suffolk could lose their free TV licence when the BBC takes on responsibility for the system in 2020.

More than 70,000 homes in Norfolk and 55,784 households in Suffolk are currently eligible for the free service.

The scheme is currently funded by the Government but the responsibility will shift to the BBC in two years time.

If the free service is pulled, pensioners will have to find a £150.50 annual fee or go without television.

According to the broadcaster, covering the free service would take one-fifth of its budget and the cuts would “fundamentally change the BBC”.

Before they go through with the change, the BBC has asked viewers for their opinion.

Chairman David Clementi said: “We will listen to their views and balance all the options and arguments before making a decision. The board does not underestimate the significance of the decision, its implications for the BBC and its audiences.”

Options being considered are a discounted rate for over-75s, increasing the qualifying age to 80, or putting restrictions in place that would only benefit the needy.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “Despite recent progress, there are still significant numbers of older people living on very low incomes who would genuinely struggle to pay the licence fee if required to do so.

“There are two million people aged 75-plus, one-in-two of whom is disabled and one-in-four of whom view the television as their main form of companionship. For many others, including those who are chronically lonely...the TV is a precious window on the world.”

She added: “Our initial appraisal is that any of the options set out would introduce significant practical difficulties and create unfairness for different groups of older people.”

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: “We know people across the country value television as a way to stay connected with the world.

“The BBC will take on responsibility for free licences for the over-75s from 2020 and it is right that they’ve confirmed no decisions will be taken until the public have been fully consulted.

“We’ve been clear that we would want and expect them to continue with this important concession.”

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