Campaigners For Free TV License Urge A Meeting With Nadine Dorries

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Free TV license campaigners have demanded a showdown with new Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries to try and break the deadlock over the lifeline.

Millions of over-75s were stripped of the benefit last year after the Tories broke a manifesto pledge to maintain it until 2022.

The Silver Voices group has called for a meeting with Ms Dorries, who has marked her first few weeks in office by attacking the BBC, including over “group think” and failing to employ more staff from “low socio-economic, non-diverse areas in the UK”.

But Silver Voices director Dennis Reed told the Mirror: “Instead of haranguing the BBC over ‘woke’, the new Culture Secretary must knuckle down and resolve the long-running free TV license dispute.

“We have requested a meeting with the minister to discuss ways of settling this dispute before things get out of hand.”

He warned that “fining and potentially imprisoning people in their 80s and 90s for protesting against the loss of this welfare benefit will occur on her watch if she fails to act”.

The Tories pledged at the 2017 election to maintain the benefit for the rest of that Parliament, which was due to run for five years.

But the BBC had already been handed responsibility for funding the concession from summer 2020, under a deal agreed in 2015.

The corporation introduced means-testing last August after warning that keeping licenses free for all over-75s would cost £745million by 2021-22.

Only over-75s who receive Pension Credit have been eligible for free licenses since August 2020, worth £159-a-year. An estimated 3.7 million have to pay.

Mr. Reed added: “The Tories promised to keep the free license until 2022, they must take this last opportunity to respect that pledge.”

The BBC and Government are locked in an ongoing blame game, with ministers saying the broadcaster “agreed to take on responsibility for the over-75s”.

But in an email to Mr. Reed earlier this year, BBC director-general Tim Davie said: “As we have discussed it was the Government who decided to stop this benefit.

“It was the BBC who then consulted on this issue and decided to continue to support the poorest oldest pensioners who receive Pension Credit.”

A Culture Department spokeswoman said: “We know how important free TV licenses are to those over-75, and we are deeply disappointed with the BBC’s decision to restrict the concession to only those in receipt of Pension Credit.

“The BBC must ensure that it supports those affected and do so with the utmost sensitivity.”

It is understood the ministry has received many requests for meetings with the Culture Secretary since last month’s reshuffle propelled Ms. Dorries to the Cabinet, and that officials will respond to requests “in due course”.

A TV Licensing spokeswoman said: ”More than nine in 10 over-75s’ households have now made arrangements for a free or paid license, in line with the broader UK population, and we are grateful for their support. “We continue to support the small remaining group to get correctly licensed.”

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