Patrick Christys: The BBC should stop chasing the elderly for the licence fee

The BBC has ended its licence fee grace period for the over-75s

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The BBC licence fee. Is it value for money? £159. That’s the price of four flights to Paris, or one of my takeaways. Now the BBC has ended its license fee grace period for the over-75s, so they now have to pay to have a bit of company in their own homes.

In fact, if they don’t pay, the BBC essentially sends the boys round for a ‘customer care visit’, to politely inform them that if they don’t stump up the cash they’ll get a £1,000 fine or maybe even go to court.

I would gently suggest that criminalising the elderly is not a great look for the Beeb. You need a licence to watch and record any live output on any channel, but you can watch on-demand services without one. So, essentially, the BBC is holding your TV hostage like one of Beirut’s finest.

The licence fee currently earns the corporation £3.2billion a year, almost a million of which is spent on Zoe Ball’s radio show salary so she can come to work and say, ‘What a lovely song that was, up next another lovely song.’

Old people face a loneliness epidemic. Many of them, especially in our current Covid world, don’t venture outside their own homes. They may not have relatives or friends and the only company they have all day is their television. Many of them simply don’t have a spare £159 lying around.

They used to get the TV licence for free. But now that’s changed. So, pay up, or else. Just remember that the next time the BBC do a hard-hitting, gritty documentary on the plight of the elderly, and pretends to care about their wellbeing. The BBC is an incredibly well staffed organisation, with state of the art offices and equipment and high presenter salaries. In short, are they so cash-strapped that they need to consign 90-year-old Marjory, who lives alone, to a lifetime of loneliness? I’m not sure they do.

Then there’s the output. Britain’s Longest Road, they’ve stretched that out for four seasons. I appreciate that the A1 is massive, but do we really need to cover every inch of it? Don’t Scare The Hare – a game show that saw a 4ft animatronic robot rabbit award carrots as prizes to competitors. Mrs Brown’s Boys - I’ll just leave that there. There is some cracking output on the BBC, don’t get me wrong, Peaky Blinders is box office, I like a bit of Match of the Day, although I’d rather it was presented by the aforementioned animatronic rabbit than perma-tanned Gary Lineker.

But we have to ask the question – in the age of mega streaming services, people watching more content online than ever before and, frankly, there being more choice than ever before – would the BBC really be able to stand alone in a competitive market without taxpayer support. I’m not sure it could. And if it’s not good enough to do that, then why should an old, lonely woman in her late 80’s be made to prop it up?