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BBC to delay over-75 licence fee changes

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The BBC is to delay TV licence fee changes for the over-75s until August in light of the coronavirus situation.

Free TV licences for up to 3.7 million people had been due to be scrapped on 1 June, but that has been put back to 1 August.

These are “exceptional circumstances” and “now is not the right time”, BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said.

He added: “We are fully focussed on delivering our services to the public at this difficult time.”

Last year, the corporation announced that only low-income households where one person receives the pension credit benefit will still be eligible for a free licence.

On Monday, amid the growing spread of the coronavirus, the BBC and the government issued a joint statement saying they “do not want anyone to be worried about any potential change” at the current time.

“The BBC’s priority over the coming period will be to do everything we can to serve the nation at this uniquely challenging time,” the statement said.

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“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.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “I am pleased the BBC has worked with us and agreed to delay their licence fee changes for over-75s from coming in and will keep this under review.

“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.”

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