Entertainment

Auntie, be nice and give over-75s free TV licences, Rees-Mogg tells BBC

Ministers and the BBC have been in dispute over the issue.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has pressed the BBC to keep free TV licences for all over-75s, urging: “Auntie, come on, let’s be nice.”

Labour frontbencher Valerie Vaz told the Government to “cover the cost” of the licences and highlighted Age UK research showing the importance of television to this age group during the coronavirus pandemic.

But Commons Leader Mr Rees-Mogg replied to his opposite number: “TV licences. I think her message will be heard by the BBC.

“Auntie, come on, let’s be nice to the over 75-year-olds as they’re some of your most loyal viewers and listeners.

“It’d be right to allow them to continue to watch television for free.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg (House of Commons/PA)

Ministers and the BBC have been involved in an ongoing row over the concession.

The broadcaster agreed to take on responsibility for funding the scheme as part of the charter agreement hammered out with the Government in 2015, but has said it cannot afford to continue the universal benefit.

The corporation was set to introduce means-testing at the start of last month but the contentious move was delayed until August because of Covid-19.

The decision on the start date is being kept under review and the BBC board will announce its decision later this month.

New BBC Broadcasting House in London (Aaron Chown/PA)
New BBC Broadcasting House in London (Aaron Chown/PA)

Labour’s shadow culture minister Christian Matheson earlier said pensioners will be “forced to choose between eating and watching TV” if free TV licences for the over-75s are scrapped.

He said: “The BBC is cutting jobs and content to pay for the cost of the licence dumped on them by the Government.

“And pensioners are forced to choose between eating and watching TV.”

Culture minister Matt Warman replied: “The fact is that the BBC has had a generous licence fee settlement and it is deeply disappointing that they have chosen to go down the path that they apparently are going down.

“I would of course hope that there is yet time to reconsider that because he is right to say that television has been vital comfort for many people in the last few months.”

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